US with Bangladesh in fight against terror
US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat has said what have been happening in Bangladesh are not its “characteristics” at all.
The country has a long tradition of tolerance, free speech and certainly a diversity of religions and cultures, she told CNN in an interview yesterday.
The US television channel talked to Bernicat via Skype to know her reactions to Monday's killings of USAID official and LGBT magazine editor Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Khandaker Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy.
She said the violent ideology of the attackers has created “fear” among people, reports UNB.
Responding to a query, the envoy told CNN that Bangladesh has been a very strong partner in the fight against terrorism.
She appreciated Bangladesh government's efforts in this regard.
“This is a government that has a track record of successfully fighting terrorism in the past. It is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has said on numerous occasions that terrorism knows no religion and no boundary,” Bernicat said, adding that Bangladesh government shows zero tolerance to any form of terrorism.
Asked about reported hit lists not just in Bangladesh, but even in Europe and America, the US ambassador said, “That's exactly correct. There have been numerous hit lists published in Bangladesh over the last year.”
She said they are working “diligently” with the government, civil society and the media to help strengthen Bangladesh in its fight against terrorism.
Asked what the US expects Bangladesh to do in addressing the issue, the envoy said, “We expect the government and everyone to speak out forcefully to condemn these acts of violence.”
The questioner from the CNN newsroom asked Bernicat whether the claims of terrorist groups appear to be authentic to her.
In response, she said they have tracked 35 similar attacks in the last 14 months and 23 of those attacks have been claimed by terrorist groups.
Earlier in the day, the US ambassador told reporters that an environment is prevailing in Bangladesh where they [killers] think they can get away with murders.
“I want to say to you all today that no human being deserves the death he got. It doesn't matter what you believe; it doesn't matter what you write; it doesn't matter who you love; and it certainly doesn't matter whether you pray to a god or you don't. You don't deserve to be killed. It's murder. It's wrong and it needs to stop,” she said in an emotion-choked voice, referring to the killing of her former protocol assistant Xulhaz.
"There is an environment here where people think they can get away with it," she said, terming the murder of Xulhaz and Tonoy a barbaric act.
Bernicat made the remarks after meeting Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal at the Secretariat.
Asked about the US envoy's comment that killers are getting away with murders, Kamal said, "It was an emotional statement [from Bernicat] and it has no basis."
Police are doing their job, risking their lives. "Such types of killings are being committed across the globe," he said.
Though it was a prescheduled courtesy call, the killing of Xulhaz and Tonoy and Saturday's murder of Rajshahi University teacher Rezaul Karim Siddiquee topped the agenda at the meeting.
In the wake of the recent killings, both of them stressed the need for fighting terrorism together.
About Xulhaz, the envoy said, "He was a beloved employee, he was a cherished colleague."
She said US Secretary of State John Kerry called her on Tuesday to “offer his personal condolences to both Xulhaz's embassy family and his Bangladeshi family”.
Referring to the recent murder of a Bangladeshi couple in San Jose, California, she said the perpetrators would be brought to justice as her country hates crime and doesn't support any act of violence.
“I just met with your home minister, with the heads of your police forces. They are our strong partners. But they can't do this job alone, none of us can. We all have to do it together."
Replying to a question, she said, “We are working very hard on all of our counter-terrorism cooperation and I can assure you that my government wants to help Bangladesh."
After the 90-minute meeting, Kamal told reporters that his ministry is going to set up a 24/7 anti-terrorism cell to monitor all information related to terrorism and pass that on to relevant law enforcement agencies as part of efforts to curb terrorism.
The additional secretary (political) would lead the cell and play the role of the coordinator among all wings of law enforcement agencies.
He urged the US ambassador to share with the Bangladesh authorities all the information they have.
Kamal reiterated that there is no base of Islamic State (IS) in Bangladesh and those who claimed the responsibility for the murders under the names of different organisations, such as Ansar Al Islam, are all the same, and all of them are home-grown terrorists.
The minister said progress has been made in 31 such sensitive cases and those involved in the recent murders would be brought to book.
He said the US envoy appreciated the progress and development Bangladesh's police have made of late.