Eight charged with Japanese farmer's murder in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi police stand guard in Rangpur in October 2015 at the site where Japanese farmer Hoshi Kunio was shot to death (AFP Photo/) (AFP/File)

Dhaka (AFP) - Eight members of an outlawed Islamist group have been charged with murdering a Japanese farmer who was shot dead in northern Bangladesh last year, a prosecutor said Monday.

The charges come as Bangladesh reels from the killing of 20 hostages -- including nine Italians and seven Japanese -- last weekend at an upmarket cafe in the capital Dhaka.

Hoshi Kunio, 66, was killed last October in a drive-by shooting on a dirt road outside the northern town of Rangpur where he was a long-term resident.

Although the Islamic State group took responsibility for Kunio's killing, police later detained four suspected members of the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an extremist group which was banned for over a decade.

The four were formally charged with murder on Sunday while four other JMB followers who have gone to ground since the attack were also added to the charge sheet.

"All eight who are charged are JMB members," Abdul Malek, the prosecutor in Rangpur district, told AFP.

The government and police say homegrown extremists are responsible for the deaths of some 80 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities killed over the last three years.

Although both IS and a branch of Al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, the government insists that international jihadist networks have not gained a foothold in Bangladesh

Authorities have also blamed the JMB for the killings of 20 hostages and two policemen during the siege at the cafe in the heart of Dhaka's diplomatic zone last weekend.