Australia’s cricket tour of Bangladesh could be scrapped within days amid heightened warnings from Britain and the United States about the likelihood of militant attacks.
Australian soccer could also be drawn into the situation ahead of the Socceroos’ scheduled World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh in Dhaka on November 17.
Football Federation Australia said on Tuesday it was monitoring the cricket crisis, as Cricket Australia (CA) security staff return from Bangladesh following security briefings.
Australia’s cricketers were blocked from departing for Bangladesh on Monday by the Bangladesh Cricket Board , citing information about militants plotting to target Australian interests.
The US, in fresh warnings to its citizens in Bangladesh, said the reports were based on “reliable new information”.
The tour was due to start on Saturday with a game against a Bangladesh Cricket Board XI followed by a two-Test series starting October 9.
The increased concern comes as hardline Islamist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the shooting death of an Italian citizen in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone on Monday.
The Italian was reportedly followed by militants on a motorbike, who fatally shot the 50-year-old while he was on an evening walk.
In a statement dated Monday, the Islamic Sate reportedly said a “security detachment” had tracked and killed Cesare with “silenced weapons” in Dhaka, according to the SITE intelligence group’s website.
It warned that “citizens of the crusader coalition” would not be safe in Muslim nations. Almost 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 160 million population practises Islam.
CA head of security Sean Carroll, team manager Gavin Dovey and team security manager Frank Dimasi were returning from Dhaka on Tuesday.
The trio are expected to meet Department of Foreign Affairs officials on Wednesday before briefing the CA board, management and players.
Australia’s concern has been mirrored in the United Kingdom and US, who have freshly warned their citizens in Bangladesh.
“UK officials have been advised to limit attendance at events where westerners may gather,” the updated UK travel bulletin said.
The US separately noted there was “reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh”.
“Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including US citizens,” the US Department of State bulletin stated.
The US banned all its government personnel in Bangladesh from attending large gatherings, including events at international hotels.
“The US government continues to receive information that terrorist groups in South Asia may also be planning attacks in the region,” it said.
“Terrorists have demonstrated their willingness and ability to attack locations where US citizens or westerners are known to congregate or visit.”
Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan said on Monday he was “shocked” by the Australian government’s advice to its cricketers.
“This is very disappointing for us. There is no risk for them in Bangladesh,” Hassan said.
After meeting CA officials, Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the Australians would get security usually reserved for visiting heads of state if they went ahead with the tour.