NEW DELHI — Assailants armed with crude bombs and sharp weapons attacked a security checkpoint at a large prayer gathering of Muslims in Bangladesh on Thursday, killing at least three people, police said.
The attack came with Bangladesh still in mourning — and authorities on high alert — after a devastating terror siege last week, in which militants took hostages at a popular cafe, hacking 20 people to death and killing two police officers in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. Many of the captives killed were foreigners.
There was no immediate assertion of responsibility for the latest bloodshed, but the Islamic State had vowed to carry out more violence. It also shattered hopes that the Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim celebration that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, would be peaceful after a week of bloodshed in Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens to “carefully consider” the risks of travel to Bangladesh in light of the “series of terrorist events,” noting that the threat remains “real and credible.” One American was killed in last week’s bloodshed.
Syed Abu Sayem, a senior police official, said that “several” men wielding pistols and machetes attacked a police checkpoint in Kishoreganj, about 68 miles northeast of the capital city of Dhaka.
About 100 yards away, more than 200,000 people had gathered in a field for a prayer service marking the end of Ramadan.
At least three people, including at least two police officers, were killed in the attack, Sayem said. One of the attackers also was killed, and three others were arrested at the scene, he added.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the bombing of the faithful on a sacred holiday.
“How can people attack those who have been doing namaz?” Hasina said, using the word for the Muslim act of offering prayer.
The largely Muslim country of around 160 million has been in a state of heightened security since last Friday’s siege, with police checkpoints established throughout Dhaka and probes expanding into possible terror cells.
Late Tuesday the Islamic State terror group, which had claimed responsibility for Friday’s hostage siege as it happened, issued a video threatening more violence to come, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a terror monitoring service.
“What you witnessed in Bangladesh was a glimpse. This will repeat, repeat and repeat until you lose and we win and the sharia is established throughout the world,” the video warned.
Bangladesh has suffered a series of bloody killings of secular bloggers, foreigners, members of the gay community, Hindu priests and other minorities since 2013, violence that has intensified during the last year.
The government routinely credits the attacks to homegrown radical groups, rather than the work of a global jihad network such as the Islamic State or local affiliates of al-Qaeda, both of which have claimed responsibility in different incidents.
The government of Sheikh Hasina, which retained power in a flawed 2014 election in which the opposition refused to participate, has arrested thousands in conjunction with the violence in recent days. Critics say that the government has used the arrest sweeps as an excuse to detail Hasina’s political opponents.
On Thursday, Bangladesh’s information minister Hasanul Haq Inu, told local reporters said that Thursday’s attack was “political” and did not have an “Islamist agenda” behind it.
Azad Majumder in Dhaka contributed to this report.