Three men fired shots at an Italian priest Wednesday as he rode his bicycle to church in northern Bangladesh, sending him to a hospital with head injuries, amid a surge in violence targeting foreigners this year.
The three assailants were on a motorbike when they attacked the priest in the town of Dinajpur, 260 miles north of the capital, Dhaka, police officer Abul Hasan said. They fled after the attack.
Piero Arolari, 57, suffered bullet wounds to his head but is out of danger, said Zillur Rahman, a doctor treating him at the hospital.
Arolari had been working as a doctor at a missionary hospital in Dinajpur where he has lived for 35 years, treating poor people from the area, said local police chief Ruhul Amin.
The assault on the priest in the Muslim-majority country follows the killing of another Italian and a Japanese citizen in attacks claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) at the end of September and early October.
Local media reported that the assailants attacked him from behind near a bus stop.
Dharani Kanto, an auto rickshaw driver, told Reuters that he had found the wounded missionary and taken him to the hospital.
"I was returning from the missionary after dropping children at the missionary school and found the priest lying unconscious, covered in blood. No one was attending to him, so with the help of two other people I rushed him to the hospital," Kanto said.
The attackers fled on a motorcycle, and fired shots to frighten off people chasing them, a senior police official said.
Bangladesh has suffered a rising tide of violence over the past year. Four bloggers, all of them outspoken in defense of secular values, have been hacked to death, among them a U.S. citizen of Bangladesh origin.
On Sept. 28, an Italian aid worker was shot in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter by three gunmen on a motorcycle. A few days later a Japanese man was also shot.
ISIL also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Shia shrine in Dhaka last month that killed one person and wounded dozens.
The government has rejected ISIL's claims of responsibility for the attacks, and has blamed the rising violence on political opponents.
Humayun Kabir, a Deputy Inspector General of police for the northern region, told Reuters that security in the area had been tightened. He linked the attack on the Italian missionary to death sentences handed down to the leaders of two opposition parties, who have been found guilty of committing war crimes during the 1971 war of independence.
"The motive of the attack was to create a destructive and unstable situation in the country to prevent on going trial of war criminals," Humayun said.