Leaked White House intelligence has revealed that the ISIS has “fully operational” branches in 18 countries including Bangladesh around the world. A heat map showing the presence of jihadist terror cells dated August 2016 shows the full reach of the evil group is now bigger than ever.
The US-based NBC on August 03, reported that a recent classified document of the United States State Department shows Bangladesh as a growing hub of the Islamic State as Bangladesh has witnessed attacks by militants claiming to have pledged allegiance to IS in recent months.
‘Bangladesh ISIS operational’: NYT
A counterterrorism ‘Heat Map,’ as it is called, shows six countries as ‘aspiring branches’ of IS which includes Bangladesh besides Egypt, Indonesia, Mali, the Philippines and Somalia. Obtained by the NBC, the heat map also indicates a sharp rise in IS presence across the world since 2014 when State Department documents indicated IS operations in seven countries. The heat map is part of a classified briefing document for the White House dated “August 2016” and prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center. It shows IS operations in 18 countries.
Bangladesh has witnessed attacks by Islamist militants claiming to have pledged allegiance to IS in recent times. A terrorist attack at a Gulshan restaurant saw 20 hostages executed and two policemen killed. The 12-hour standoff ended with a commando operation on July 2.
Pictures of the five terrorists smiling with their semiautomatic weapons clad in black and sporting red chequered keffiyehs were released by IS as well as pictures of mangled bodies from Holey Artisan, the Gulshan restaurant several hours before the commando operation took place. A few days later on July 7, the day of Eid ul Fitr, two more policemen and a woman were killed by terrorists near the largest Eid congregation of Bangladesh. However, the authorities have insisted there is no IS presence in Bangladesh and that the terrorists are ‘homegrown’ linked with such outfits as the banned Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
Apart from that, the New York Times on Wednesday also reported that the terrorist group Islamic State has sent its foot soldiers to Bangladesh as well as to Indonesia and Malaysia in Asia. The report was based on over 100,000 pages of French, Belgian, Austrian and German investigative documents after the November 2015 Paris attack by the IS. As part of the report, Rukmini Callimachi, reporter of the Times, conducted a jailhouse interview with a former IS militant from Germany, named Harry Sarfo.
UK, EU fear more attacks
Sarfo described what he had been told by the IS’s external operations branch about the group’s design to build an infrastructure in Bangladesh. For Asian recruits, the group was looking specifically for militants who had emerged from Al Qaeda’s network in the region, Sarfo said to the Times. Meanwhile, both the United Kingdom and the European Union have feared further terrorist attacks in Bangladesh targeting foreigners, in particular the westerners. “There’s a heightened threat of further terrorist attacks and foreigners, in particular westerners, may be directly targeted,” said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in its updated travel advice on Wednesday. Referring to the July 1 terrorist attack the British government said its citizens should remain vigilant, monitor local and social media, and follow any specific advice of the local security authorities to avoid certain areas. Crowded areas where westerners are known to gather may be at higher risk of attack, it said adding, “You should minimise your exposure to these areas and consider your movements carefully.
Simultaneously, the European Union (EU) has also described the current Bangladesh situation as very critical and fears further attacks like that of Gulshan café and is actively considering sending back their staff members’ families to Europe. “We’re not overreacting,” the BBC Bangla quoted EU Ambassador in Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon as saying on Wednesday. He said their concerns after the July 1 attack are yet to be removed and mentioned that it will be insulting to those killed and their family members if anybody says that they are overreacting. In an interview with the BBC Bangla, the EU Ambassador said they are actively considering sending back their staff members’ families to Europe due to the current security concern. “We’ll take the final decision within the next few days.”
Japan, Italy, Canada and the Netherlands have sought permission from the government to allow them using bulletproof vehicles for their personnel living in Bangladesh as the July 1 terror attack eroded their confidence. Though the government has revamped security arrangements as part of the post-attack tightened security measures, a number of countries including the US are also pushing the government to allow carrying arms for their private security forces.
The home ministry and foreign ministry are now in consultation on the two issues but yet to take any final decision. A taskforce constituted after the extremist attack and Army-led operations at a Gulshan restaurant that killed 28 people, including 17 foreigners, in July 1-2 would hold its first meeting this afternoon to discuss the ways to ensure security of the foreigners and prepare them for any such incidents.
The writer is a freelance correspondent
Source: Weekly Holiday