Dhaka attack first anniversary: Denial of Islamic terror won't help Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh

Today (1 July) Dhaka commemorates one year of the lethal Islamic State-inspired terror strike which rocked Bangladesh when the terrorists took several hostages in Holy Artisan Bakery in a posh residential area of Dhaka and eventually killed 22 captives including two cops before being slain by the anti-terror force.

It's been one year since the ghastly incident but Bangladesh continues to smoulder under Islamic terror threats as there have been sporadic terror strikes at various places signalling the reality that the hostile forces are still active and they are likely to hit at an opportune time, the moment guard is lowered.

Dhaka Attack

A makeshift memorial, to pay tribute to the victims of Dhaka attacks. Reuters file image

Security experts analysing the 1 July attack assessed that it was IS sponsored as there were hallmarks of typical IS modus operandi.

However, prime minister Sheikh Hasina maintained that it was the handiwork of the homegrown terrorists. Her denial of any IS complicity is possibly because she felt that Bangladesh should not be seen as a country caving
into any IS ideology or radicalisation.

But such a well-crafted and precise operation could not have been launched without any influence and involvement of the IS. Also, subsequently, it was known that messages to target installations in Bangladesh had emanated from the IS headquarters and they were in Bangla just before terror struck.

Further, the terrorists involved in the 1 July strike, were all from well to do homes, were in their 20's, educated in convents and expensive institutions and highly indoctrinated as part of the IS pursuits. Sadly, their parents were oblivious of their indoctrination despite the fact that the IS recruits were not seen by the family for several months and some of them were in Syria and Iraq either fighting with the IS cadres or camping in the theatre of IS activities. Also, they were professionally apt to deal with the hostage situation and ready to die for a 'cause' which is thought to be deeply indoctrinated by the IS propaganda.

Coincidentally, within days of this incident, the Islamic terrorists had the gumption and audacity to strike (7 July) again and that too at an Eid congregation in a neighbouring district. It shows the IS resolve and the fact that despite the decisive neutralising action by the counter-terror forces, the terrorists were not deterred at all.

It also underlines the fact that the intelligence agencies were caught off guard in the second attempt too by the terrorists.

Interestingly, 2016 saw as many as six deadly attacks in Bangladesh and even in 2017, according to one survey, there were occurrences of eight (upto 11 May) devastating attacks. Statistics speak all though 1 July attack was the most lethal sending out shockwaves in the country about the chilling presence of terrorists whether home grown or otherwise.

Bangladesh has had a long history of terror even before IS or Al Qaeda were born. Indian high commissioner to Dhaka, Samar Sen, was shot at inside the chancery premises by the Islamic ultras way back in 1979.

The country was only eight-year-old then and relations with India were thought to be good if not at its best.

Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh was inherited from Pakistan and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) was a collaborator with pro-Pakistani forces to target Indian facilities which was also part of a greater blueprint to impair Indo- Bangladesh relations. Thus the spiralling rise in fundamentalism, with the monetary support from middle eastern
countries and Pakistan, bred terror and led to formation of several perilous terror outfits.

Today, Jamaat-ul-Mujahdeen Bangladesh (JMB) is a force to reckon with posing serious security challenge to the country as this 29-year-old terror organisation has strong links with Pakistan.

Intelligence officials of Bangladesh reckon that JMB maintains close links with undercover operatives working in the Pakistani High Commission, Dhaka and there had been many instances when Pakistan staffers were declared persona non grata for their undesirable activities. JMB is well trained in handling of sophisticated weapons
including bomb making as amply demonstrated in a series of explosions carried out by JMB particularly in
2005. It also enjoys support from the JeI (now banned) which is also affiliated with some Arab nations and Pakistan. Importantly, it was nourished with the state patronage of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which is openly pro-Pakistan, anti-Hasina and anti-India.

To illustrate the argument further, it's most pertinent to point out that Hasina providentially escaped a deadly grenade attack on 21 August, 2004 at a public rally which killed many. In a startling disclosure to a court hearing few years ago, the then chief of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) stated that attempt on Hasina's life was very much in the knowledge of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia (now in opposition). Attempt to eliminate her political adversary with grenades is a sad reflection of the political statecraft practised in a democratic set up, where a prime minister is stooping that low. Perhaps they follow the dictum that in love and war, all is fair.

Judging by the 2004 incident, Hasina, though in power, continues to be vulnerable specially when Islamic forces like Hefazat-e-Islam, JMB and other affiliates including external hostile entities are waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc with Hasina as the prime target. It clearly calls for an abundant caution.

The first anniversary of the Dhaka attack, therefore, merits a fresh evaluation of Bangladesh and Hasina's security lest it loses focus and proves costly, also in terms of country's ties with India.

The writer is a security analyst, served in Bangladesh for more than three years and has been following developments in Bangladesh. He is also the Senior Fellow with the India Police Foundation.

Updated Date: Jul 01, 2017 15:22 PM

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