The pace and magnitude of “terrorist attacks” in Bangladesh continued to decline in 2018, although a secularist writer was killed and a university professor was seriously injured in separate incidents, says a US report.
The Country Reports on Terrorism 2018 released by the US Department of State yesterday said Bangladeshi security forces continued a counterterrorism campaign that claimed to have disrupted planned attacks, captured suspected militant leaders, and seized caches of weapons, ammunition, and explosives.
However, the report in its Bangladesh part said judicial impediments to the “successful prosecution” of terrorists and allegations of “extrajudicial killings” by security forces during counterterrorism raids have inhibited broader counterterrorism successes.
The government of Bangladesh continued to articulate a “zero-tolerance” policy toward terrorism and the use of its territory as a terrorist safe haven, the report read.
The government of Bangladesh often attributed terrorist violence to local militants.
The US report said al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and ISIS have together claimed responsibility for nearly 40 attacks in Bangladesh since 2015.
It said terrorist organisations used social media to spread their ideologies and solicit followers from Bangladesh.
On June 11, 2018, suspected terrorists murdered Shajahan Bachchu, a secularist writer and political activist in Munshiganj, according to the US report.
While the investigation is ongoing, Bangladeshi security forces suspect that the perpetrators were affiliated with AQIS, says the US report.
On March 3, 2018, a man self-identifying as a member of an AQIS-affiliated group, attacked Zafar Iqbal, a professor at a university in Sylhet, claiming that Iqbal was an “enemy of Islam”.
However, the Bangladeshi government’s investigation determined that the attacker did not have ties to AQIS or other terrorist organisations.
On April 5, the government of Bangladesh formed the first two antiterrorism tribunals authorised by the Antiterrorism Act in Dhaka and Chattogram.
One of the Dhaka tribunal’s first cases was the trial of six defendants for the December 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack.
The report said Bangladesh cooperated with the United States in strengthening control of its borders and ports of entry.
Bangladesh continued to participate in the US Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance programme and received counterterrorism training on building unit capacity in crisis response, evidence collection, crime scene investigation, infrastructure protection, leadership development, and train-the-trainers, as well as enhancing cyber and digital investigation capabilities.
Bangladesh also received Department of Justice prosecutorial skills training, community policing support, and technical advice on the modernisation of its Evidence Act. Bangladesh is receiving assistance from the United States in developing an Alert List of known and suspected terrorists and militants to better screen for persons of interest at its ports of entry.
Bangladesh is a member and incoming co-chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a FATF-style regional body.
The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) is a member of the Egmont Group.
Bangladesh Bank and the BFIU lead the government’s efforts to comply with the international AML/CFT standards and international sanctions regimes.