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CRIME

Bangladesh official ‘ordered Italian’s murder’

A senior Bangladeshi minister accused a main opposition party official Wednesday of ordering an Italian aid worker's murder as part of a plot to destabilize the government.

Bangladesh official 'ordered Italian's murder'
A Bangladesh official allegedly sanctioned the murder of an Italian aid worker last month. Photo:Stringer/AFP

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said police are hunting for Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) official M. A. Quayum for allegedly orchestrating the deadly shooting of Cesare Tavella in the capital late last month.
   
Police on Monday said four people had been arrested, three of whom they said had admitted carrying out the September 28th contract killing on orders of a so-called “big brother”.
   
“Quayum is the big brother,” Kamal told reporters on Wednesday.
   
Quayum, who is believed to have fled the country, is a mid-ranking BNP official and a former Dhaka councillor.
   
Kamal said police have “conclusive evidence” Quayum ordered the killing as part of a “conspiracy” to trigger anarchy and pile pressure on the government, although he did not elaborate.
   
The killing near Dhaka's diplomatic zone was the first of a series of attacks to be claimed by Islamic State (IS) and was followed days later by the gunning down of a Japanese farmer in northern Bangladesh.
   
A weekend bombing of the capital's main Shiite shrine, which killed one person and wounded dozens more, has further heightened the fears of minorities living in the mainly Muslim but officially secular nation.
   
Although that attack was also claimed by IS, the government responded by denying the extremist group was active in Bangladesh and instead rounded up dozens of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's opponents.
   
BNP secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir rejected the home minister's claim, saying that it was “unacceptable and not believable”.
   
“We've said clearly that the government should conduct proper investigations into these murders. Instead, they are using these to suppress a democratic opposition,” he told AFP.

The government has consistently blamed the BNP and its main Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami for the unrest which has plagued Bangladesh since their refusal to take part in a January 2014 general election.
   
After the attack on the Shiite shrine, a former BNP lawmaker and several senior BNP and Jamaat officials were detained. Police said the arrests were related to previous unrest and not linked to Saturday's blast.

One of the four arrested over the aid worker's killing, Tamjid Ahmed Rubel, has told his family that he was forced into making a confession.

“When I went to visit him in the jail Tuesday, he told me he didn't do it but he was coerced by police to admit the false allegations,” Rubel's uncle, Mainuddin Ahmed Tawhid, told AFP.

“We don't understand what is happening,” Tawhid said, adding that his nephew disappeared two weeks ago.
   
US-based extremist monitoring group SITE defended its publication of all three IS claims after Bangladesh police cast doubt on their authenticity.

“The claims have been authenticated and found credible by SITE's rigorous verification process,” the group said in a statement.

CRIME

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

Prosecutors in New York on Tuesday returned dozens of antiquities stolen from Italy and valued at around $19 million, some of which were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York returns millions worth of stolen art to Italy

“These 58 pieces represent thousands of years of rich history, yet traffickers throughout Italy utilized looters to steal these items and to line their own pockets,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, noting that it was the third such repatriation in nine months.

“For far too long, they have sat in museums, homes, and galleries that had no rightful claim to their ownership,” he said at a ceremony attended by Italian diplomats and law enforcement officials.

The stolen items had been sold to Michael Steinhardt, one of the world’s leading collectors of ancient art, the DA’s office said, adding that he had been slapped with a “first-of-its-kind lifetime ban on acquiring antiquities.”

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Among the recovered treasures, which in some cases were sold to “unwitting collectors and museums,” were a marble head of the Greek goddess Athena from 200 B.C.E. and a drinking cup dating back to 470 B.C.E, officials said.

The pieces were stolen at the behest of four men who “all led highly lucrative criminal enterprises – often in competition with one another – where they would use local looters to raid archaeological sites throughout Italy, many of which were insufficiently guarded,” the DA’s office said.

One of them, Pasquale Camera, was “a regional crime boss who organized thefts from museums and churches as early as the 1960s. He then began purchasing stolen artifacts from local looters and sold them to antiquities dealers,” it added.

It said that this year alone, the DA’s office has “returned nearly 300 antiquities valued at over $66 million to 12 countries.”

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