DHAKA, Dec 8, 2015:

A suspected local militant confessed on Tuesday in a Bangladesh court to murdering a Japanese farmer, police said, one of a string of recent attacks in the country blamed on Islamist extremists.

Masud Rana, 22, was arrested last week over the killing of a minority Sufi Muslim leader in November and later questioned over the shooting of Japan’s Hoshi Kunio in northern Bangladesh one month earlier.

Rana, a former student at a local Islamic seminary, appeared in court in the northern city of Rangpur accused of being a commander of local banned outfit Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

“The militant operative admitted he was the key person, accompanied by two others, who shot Kunio dead in a rickshaw,” northern police chief Humayun Kabir told AFP.

“We recovered a huge cache of handmade explosives and sharp weapons from his possession,” investigating detective Jahidul Islam told AFP of his arrest.

The 66-year-old farmer’s death in October came just days after the gunning down of an Italian aid worker in the capital Dhaka, one of several attacks to be claimed by the Islamic State group.

The Bangladesh government says there is no evidence that Islamic State has a presence in the traditionally moderate Muslim-majority country, which has been left reeling from the attacks.

Five other men remain in police custody over Kunio’s death, but officers say they are still hunting for the mastermind behind the attack.

Police blame the JMB for the recent violence while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government accuses the main opposition party and its Islamist ally of trying to trigger anarchy in the country. The parties reject the claims.

Bangladesh has been roiled by the rising unrest which has seen four atheist bloggers and a publisher hacked to death this year, while several minority Sufi Muslim leaders and two policemen have also been killed.

Kunio worked on a farming project in Rangpur, 300km north of Dhaka, where he grew grass for cattle.

Analysts say Islamist militants pose a growing danger in conservative Bangladesh, and a long-running political crisis has radicalised opponents of the government.

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