Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the 18 November attack in Bangladesh on Fr. Piero Arolari, the Italian Catholic priest who survived being shot by three men on motorcycles as he cycled to work, UCA News reports.

“Security detachments of soldiers of the caliphate in Bangladesh carried out some unique operations [including] … targeting the Italian crusader foreigner,” the jihadist group said in a statement, according to the US-based SITE intelligence group.

Almost 70 Christians have received death threats by text message from IS or local Islamic fundamentalist groups in Bangladesh in the last week, local sources, who preferred to stay anonymous, told World Watch Monitor. The message read: “Your time in this world has run out. You can now do or eat whatever you want and after five days we will murder you at anytime, anywhere. Through your blood we will save the Islamic world”.

The attack on Fr. Arolari was the latest in a series of attacks on foreign nationals in Bangladesh.

In September, Caesar Tavella, an Italian aid worker, was killed in Dhaka; Islamic State claimed responsibility. IS also claimed responsibility for the murder of Japanese businessman Kunio Hoshi, 66. The government denies that IS has a presence in the country.

A week after Tavella died, a local priest survived what appeared to be a pre-meditated attack at his home. A year ago, hundreds of extremist Islamists attacked a Christian school in Bangladesh, which welcomes children of all faiths, in response to locals who were outraged by rumours stating that the school was forcing Muslim children to convert to Christianity.

Meanwhile a Muslim mob has burned down the homes of four Catholic families after a long campaign of abuse against them.

“For more than a year, Muslim youths from a neighbouring village accused us of practicing witchcraft,” said Ramni Das, 57 who lost two houses in the attack on 5 November. The families escaped after neighbours pulled them from the burning bulidings.