Bangladesh Terrorism Denied
The Bangladesh government lives in denial as various terrorism incidents continue to ravage the country.
There are some key lessons that Bangladesh needs to learn.
2016 is turning out to be a transformative year for Bangladesh, but not for the better. Episodes of violence bearing the mark of foreign jihadist cults have either been swept aside by the Awami League (AL) government or quickly blamed on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the country’s main opposition, and its hard-right ally, the Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI). Behind the long-running political theater of the “battling begums,” the Bangladeshi media’s sobriquet for incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and her political nemesis and predecessor, Khaleda Zia, global terrorist organizations, namely the self- styled Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, have quietly set up shop.
Since 2013, the AL government has refused to accept that seemingly random attacks on minorities, freethinkers and foreigners by machete-wielding assailants or drive-by shooters that have left more than 40 dead were the handiwork of IS or Al-Qaeda affiliates in Bangladesh. Instead, it pinned them on homegrown militant groups (backed by the BNP and JI of course), particularly the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). These militants, law enforcement officials stressed, were weaving illusory and opportunistic links to Iraq and Syria. In short, IS nor Al-Qaeda had an operational foothold in the country. This facade perpetuated by Wajed herself crumbled with the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks in July.
Multiple armed attackers struck the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s upmarket Gulshan neighborhood on July 1, killing 20 patrons including 17 foreigners. They besieged the bakery for hours as a fierce shootout with local police resounded through Dhaka. This was the first incident of mass hostagetaking and murder targeting foreign nationals in Bangladeshi history, which initially befuddled first responders to the scene and bled precious time before