Socceroos land in Dhaka amid heavy security
DHAKA: Australia’s national football team arrived in Dhaka yesterday to play a World Cup qualifying match amid “unprecedented” security as fears of militant attacks escalate in the Muslim-majority country.
“The team has landed and was taken to a hotel with heavy security,” Abu Nayeem Sohag, general secretary of the Bangladesh Football Federation, told AFP. The match, scheduled for Tuesday, was thrown into doubt after Australia’s national cricket team cancelled their tour of Bangladesh over security concerns.
Australian football officials also flagged their concerns to world football governing body FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. Two Football Federation Australia security officials, in Dhaka since November 9, and a FIFA security official met Bangladesh’s home affairs minister and law enforcement agencies before giving the match the go-ahead.
The chief of the police station at Dhaka airport Kamal Uddin told AFP that more than 100 armed policemen and officers were deployed at the airport to ensure security for the visitors and “four layers of protection” were provided when the team departed the airport for their hotel.
“The Australian team got a level of security that is specially reserved for a visiting head of state or the Bangladesh Prime Minister,” Uddin said. “They are pleased with the security arrangements.” Dhaka’s deputy police chief on Sunday announced “unprecedented” security measures for the Socceroos match, saying markets would be sealed off and sniffer dogs and bomb disposal units deployed at Bangabandhu National Stadium where the match will be held.
The match is crucial for Australia who are second in their group-one point behind leaders Jordan-and cannot afford to forfeit three points by failing to fulfil a fixture.
Australia thrashed Bangladesh 5-0 in September’s home qualifier in Perth. Bangladesh are at the bottom of their group with just one point from six matches.
Australia’s cricketers had been due to play a two-Test series in Bangladesh in October but the tour was scrapped after a security alert was issued by officials. The alert was followed by the killings of two foreigners and deadly blasts at a Shiite shrine-attacks claimed by the Islamic State group (IS).
Although local officials have steadfastly rejected the presence of foreign jihadist groups including IS, the US State Department has issued a travel alert, warning that foreigners could be targeted in attacks. — AFP