DHAKA, Bangladesh – A Saudi diplomat was shot and killed on a residential street in Bangladesh's capital early Tuesday, and authorities say the gunman and a motive were unknown.
However, if the killing is not deemed a street crime, speculation could turn to Iran, which has been blamed for other international attacks as it struggles against Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Middle East.
Shortly after midnight, Khalaf bin Mohammed Salem al-Ali was found just 30 yards (meters) from his home in Dhaka's Gulshan neighborhood, police official Kamrul Hasan said. He had bullet wounds to his chest and was taken to a hospital, where he died.
A security guard at his home, Taposh Rema, told reporters al-Ali used to roam around by a bicycle at night but he went outside on foot late Monday. Two other security guards near the crime scene told reporters they heard one gunshot and found al-Ali lying on the street.
The Bangladeshi government said it was monitoring developments in the investigation of the killing of al-Ali, a 45-year-old official in the Saudi embassy's consular section.
"What has happened is very unfortunate and unexpected in this country," Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said in a statement. "We have also ordered police to conduct a fair investigation so we can take proper actions against the culprits."
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested higher protection for its staff in Bangladesh and had conveyed condolences to his family, a ministry statement said.
Last year, the U.S. government accused Iranian agents of being part of a foiled plot to kill Saudia Arabia's ambassador to the United States, and Israel has accused Iran of attacks or attempted attacks on its diplomats in India, Thailand and Georgia this year. Iran has denied all of the accusations.
In May 2011, gunmen in Karachi, Pakistan, killed a Saudi diplomat, and Pakistani police said they suspected that shooting was motivated by anger over Saudi Arabia's decision to send troops to Bahrain, where the majority Shiites are challenging the rule of the Sunni monarchy. Saudi Arabia is overwhelmingly Sunni.
Saudi Arabia's recent talk about arming Syrian rebels has likely further irked Iran, which is allied with Syrian leader Bashar Assad.
Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation, enjoys good relations with Saudi Arabia, which is a top destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers.
However, relations between the countries were tested in October, when Saudi authorities beheaded eight Bangladeshi workers who were found guilty of robbing and killing an Egyptian man.
The human rights group Amnesty International condemned the executions and criticized Saudi court procedures as falling "far short of international standards for fair trial."
Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Brian Murphy contributed to this report from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.