The government yesterday turned down requests for allowing armed private security personnel for diplomats and their facilities but offered a set of new options to further strengthen their safety following the July 1 terror attack that left 17 foreigners killed in Dhaka.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said the foreign missions could hire armed Ansar Battalion personnel if they wanted additional security forces.
The government, however, said the diplomatic missions would have to pay for he hired Ansar, an armed auxiliary force.
The foreign embassies and high commissions can also bring bulletproof vehicles with prior permission and can also use white number plates for their vehicles along with yellow plates.
Diplomatic sources said the foreign minister offered diplomats the use Kurmitola Golf Club as many of them were refraining from outdoor recreational activities following the July 1 attack.
They said a number of foreign missions, especially the US, Japan, India and Spain, had expressed their interests in exploring the option of armed Bangladeshi private security personnel following a series of recent killings of bloggers, minorities and foreign nationals.
The demand for such security facilities became stronger following the July 1 deadly terror attack in Holey Artisan Bakery. The foreign missions, however, said the Bangladesh police provided outstanding and professional protection to their diplomats and facilities but they wanted arms for Bangladeshi security companies as a secondary protection.
Elaborating on the number plates, the foreign minister told the mission chiefs at a diplomatic briefing at the state guesthouse Padma that they could use white number plates for their vehicles instead of yellow ones.
In reply to a question from the media, the minister said in many countries diplomats use “armoured or bulletproof vehicles”. “This is not new in Bangladesh.”
He said the government was doing everything to strengthen the security of the diplomats and they were happy to see the robust measures.
“They're very satisfied … they've appreciated the government steps,” the foreign minister said, adding that all foreigners in Dhaka and outside have been brought under adequate security coverage.
Earlier, he briefed the diplomatic corps at the state guesthouse Padma on the recent measures adopted by the government to beef up safety and security of diplomatic missions.
The minister said the strengthened security had brought back confidence among the foreign nationals living in Bangladesh.
This had also been reflected on the high-level visits in the last few weeks, he added.
Mahmood Ali highlighted the actions taken and progress achieved in detecting and apprehending criminals behind the recent attacks, including the Gulshan attack.
He expressed the hope that the ongoing drives against violent extremists by the law-enforcement agencies would continue and there would be no let-up.
The minister also reiterated that the government was determined to rooting out terrorism and militancy from the country and was putting up all-out efforts to find the mentors, masterminds, financiers as well as trainers of the extremists.
The minister expressed his satisfaction over the work of the Task Force on the Security of Diplomats and Diplomatic Premises that convenes regularly to review further means to strengthen security and protection.
Replying to another question, he said there was nothing wrong if any country wanted to help Bangladesh deal with militancy. “The entire world stood behind Bangladesh after the July 1 attack.”
Around 60 diplomats, mostly ambassadors and high commissioners of different countries, attended the briefing, according to a foreign ministry press release.
The envoys thanked the government for the enhanced surveillance and security measures taken around the country and shared their views on possible future measures to protect diplomats and missions.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, MP, the principal secretary to the prime minister, foreign secretary and other senior officials of the foreign ministry and other agencies were present during the briefing.