The Bangla War

stream_imgThe attack on Dhaka by the ISIS comes at a time when the global community has been trying doubly hard to contain the threat of terror mongers. While the attack at a bakery has been widely condemned across the globe, the 13 hour long mission called Operation Thunderbolt has brought relief to hostages. It however leaves several questions unanswered. Experts call the Dhaka attack an unprecedented act, which will now force those in Bangladesh to start worrying about how terror and its threat is now a reality in the country. But for Bangladesh turmoil has been the buzzword through and through.

Heavy gunfire and explosions were testimony to the crisis that hit home in Bangladesh. Security forces supported by armoured vehicles moved in to end the 13 hour long standoff where dozens had been taken as hostage. Of the 20 foreigners killed was a Indian girl named Tarishi Jain, whose family is now being assisted by the MEA.

The attack which took place at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area sent shockwaves across Bangladesh. While attempts to get control over the situation went on overnight, local media was stopped from reporting.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attack. Interestingly media reports accessed suggest ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates have claimed responsibility for recent attacks in the country. While the government does not buy the point, local journalists have told the media that these were local elements who were reportedly outsourced the job.

At least 35 people, including about 20 foreigners, had been trapped inside the bakery.

Not surprisingly with a major hostage situation, President Obama was briefed about the scenario by counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco.

While the terror attack has come as a surprise, the problem of militant violence in Bangladesh is nothing new.

Traditionally a moderate Muslim-majority nation Bangladesh has seen an upsurge in militant violence. Figures coming in from Bangladesh clearly show, two dozen atheist writers, publishers, members of religious minorities, social activists and foreign aid workers being slain since 2013 by attackers wielding machetes. Friday saw the unfortunate killing of a Hindu temple worker being killed. An act which many fear could trigger tension in the country.

The attacks raise fears that religious extremists are ruling the roost.

It is noteworthy that on Thursday, the State Department has designated al Qaeda’s affiliate in Bangladesh, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, as a foreign terrorist organization. The group has claimed responsibility for the killings of U.S. citizen Avijit Roy and U.S. Embassy worker Xulhaz Manna.

Meanwhile the Sheikh Hasina government has cracked the whip on domestic radical Islamists. The regime in power has accused terror mongers and opposition forces to try and destabilize the country. This however has been rubbished by both parties.

According to estimates the ISIS, ISIL or the Daesh has claimed responsibility for more attacks in Bangladesh through its social media accounts than in Pakistan or Afghanistan. These include the killing of Italia, Japanese expats or Shia Muslims.

With Bangladesh having been on the boil, in police crackdowns, authorities have rounded up 12,000 people. Most detained were petty criminals and supporters of opposition parties.

Counterterrorism experts see a clear failure of the Sheikh Hasina regime in this rise of terror in the country.

Reports coming from Bangadesh suggest the controversial moves to prosecute and execute war criminals pushed Islamist factions deeper underground and have perhaps provoked a violent counter-response.

Over the past 18 months, 48 killings have been blamed on Islamic militants, with more than half claimed by the Islamic State. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the majority of the others.

Bloodshed is not new to Bangladesh. It was born in 1971 at the cost of 30 lakh lives lost, and has, since then, seen many bloody upheavals.

Beginning last year, guns were trained on unsuspecting victims — an Italian and a Japanese aid worker, a Buddhist monk, a 65-year-old Sufi and a god-fearing professor who loved Sufi music. In past few months, the target has shifted to Hindus.

Islamic State and al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for the killings of more than 30 people since early last year.

Security officials tell media two local militant groups, Ansar-al-Islam and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, are behind the killings.

Authorities in Bangladesh have arrested at least 103 militants as part of a broad crackdown.

About 6,000 suspected criminals were arrested since law enforcement agencies began a week-long drive to halt targeted killings in the mainly Muslim nation.

At least 10 suspected members of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen have been killed in shootouts since November, including five last week.

What the future holds for Bangladesh though only time will tell.

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