Bangladesh Ter­ror­ism De­nied

The Bangladesh gov­ern­ment lives in de­nial as var­i­ous ter­ror­ism in­ci­dents con­tinue to rav­age the coun­try.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S. Mubashir Noor

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

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