The first to be killed was a jogger, gunned down last September during his daily run in the leafy diplomatic quarter of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka. He was identified as a 50-year-old Italian aid worker, and the police say the men who murdered him had been given instructions to kill a white foreigner at random.
In October, a Japanese man was killed. In November, gunmen riding a motorcycle pulled alongside a Catholic priest in northern Bangladesh and opened fire, wounding him.
For the Islamic State terrorist group, which broadly advised operatives it sent to Europe to kill "anyone and everyone," the group's tactics in Bangladesh have seemed more controlled. In the past nine months, it has claimed 19 attacks in the South Asian country, nearly all of them targeted assassinations singling out religious minorities and foreigners. They included hacking to death a Hindu man, stabbing to death a Shiite preacher, murdering a Muslim villager who had been accused of converting to Christianity and sending suicide bombers into Shiite mosques.
For years, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has pursued a campaign of wholesale slaughter in Syria and Iraq. And in the attacks the group has directed or indirectly inspired in Western countries — including the coordinated killings in Paris and Brussels and the mass shooting inside an Orlando, Fla., nightclub — the assailants killed at random.
But a closer look at the attack the Islamic State has claimed in Bangladesh — and at the fact that it has not claimed bombings attributed to it in Turkey,including the airport attack this past week — suggests a group that is tailoring its approach for different regions and for different target audiences.
"For I.S. to maintain support among its followers and prospects, it must take different considerations into account when planning an attack in a Muslim country versus non-Muslim countries," argues Rita Katz, the director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which has tracked the group's attacks in Bangladesh. "I.S. encourages the killing of random civilians in France, Belgium, America or other Western nations, but in a country like Turkey, I.S. must be sure that it isn't killing Muslims — or at least make it look like it's trying not to," she wrote in an analysis recently published online.
The issue of killing Sunni civilians has been a main point of contention with Al Qaeda after the Islamic State broke away from the terror network several years ago. And it surfaced again in the past week.
After the triple suicide bombing at the Istanbul airport on Tuesday, a Qaeda official used Twitter to issue a stinging rebuke of the attack blamed on ISIS. "The Turkish people are Muslims, & their blood is sacred. A true mujahid would give his life up for them, not massacre them #IstanbulAttack," wrote Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir, who has been described as an Australian member of Al Qaeda's branch in Syria, according to a transcript provided by SITE.
The Islamic State's uncharacteristic silence about the attacks in Turkey, when it tends to quickly claim bombings elsewhere, reflects the balancing act the terror group must undertake when carrying out violence in predominantly Muslim nations, analysts say.
Ms. Katz said the Islamic State "has shown comparable discretion when conducting attacks in other Muslim countries, focusing on government targets, perceived religious deviants and enemy factions, as opposed to random civilians."