Bangladesh’s 9/11 – How do we react?

Kayes Ahmed


In the aftermath of Bangladesh’s 9/11 and the killings of twenty innocent people at the Holey Artisan Bakery, Bangladesh is at crossroads. What choice Bangladesh makes now will determine the future of the country and its 150 million people. Whether the country and the government adapts a transparent policy position, gives up silly pride and petty politics, or whether the government will continue to obfuscate and play politics will determine if the country can emerge from this crisis a healthier and stronger country.

The signs are not good, however. The Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told AFP that all six killed by the Army in the “rescue” operation are members of Jamat e Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), a long-banned organization with no ties to ISIS or Al Qaeda! He believes this was a homegrown operation, despite the fact that all of the attackers had their pictures sent in advance to ISIS to be published in their news outlet, and that ISIS was touting that twenty infidels were killed long before the raid even started. There is a boatload of evidence that the attack was coordinated, planned and executed by handlers who are not twenty-somethings in the midst of existential musings of the ordinary youth. The attackers made up in zeal as well as dedication what they lacked in actual training. Their instructions and command and control were precise and brilliant. Therefore, the Honorable Home Minster is either missing the obvious or is in denial! Either possibility is terrible for the country.

The Prime Minister in her address to the nation and the world came out and blamed local and international conspirators. She did not even mention IS or the Islamic Jihadists! She then took a swipe at the media for live broadcasting. It would seem that for once she should stop being political and put the country’s wellbeing in the forefront. The signs are not good, but maybe, just maybe, good sense will prevail. She says, “have faith in us”. We all want to but the opaqueness of her policy makes it very difficult.

Make no mistake. This is Bangladesh’s 9/11. How the country reacts will determine its place in the world. The country is now solidly in the front lines of the War on Terror. Letus take a quick look at how the policy of petty politics cost the world twenty lives and brought the country to the precipice. Here are some key points:

• Ignoring the signs: For about two years Bangladesh has seen low level violence against bloggers, Hindus, Christians and foreigners. The government in the form of the aforementioned Home Minister kept saying these are isolated incidents. It was clear that the methods of the killings, the target selection and the high success rate was the result of training, indoctrination and most importantly command and control. Yet the government of Bangladesh did not focus on the militant Islamic terrorists and had no game plan to confront them when the attack came to Gulshan.

• Failure of Intelligence: I know it maybe too much to ask for. However, the killings of bloggers and minorities should have given the authorities ample opportunities to gather intelligence on training sites, individuals and the organizational structures of the Jihadists. However, that was not possible because the powers that be believed and may still believe that the Jihadists are just isolated criminals!

• The thumb-twiddling eleven hours: While the siege was going on, the RAB, Police, and various officials were making phone calls, going from one side of the road to the other and generally making the scene into a carnival. There was no effective cordon sanitaire and no action. Movement yes, action no! If the government had the right policy in place then they would know that there can be no negotiations with the Jihadists. These murderers are already committed to kill themselves and their targets. They want nothing but maximum publicity and disruption. Think of how as a plane passenger you and I reacted to hijacking before 9/11. We assumed the hijacker wants to go someplace. Now we know that a hijacker must be taken down, period. He wants to go to Heaven and wants to take all of us with him. That is a paradigm shift. They want to paralyze the country and drag it back to the 7th century. If the Police had the right perspective, then I am sure they would not wait for eleven hours before taking down the terrorists. The Police would know that all negotiations and talk are just a ruse for more publicity. By all indication it seems that the terrorists started slaughtering their victims fairly early. If the Police had gone in immediately after the siege began, maybe some of them would still be alive.

• Operational Bungling: The Police claimed they freed thirteen hostages. However, it seems that most of them were let go by the Jihadists themselves. They mainly let go locals and the nine staff members hiding in the bathroom. There were one or two foreigners who escaped. These facts are still fuzzy, but the information trickling out shows that the operation has more bluster than results. When the raid did take place it was like invading a small country. It reminded me of Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in the eighties. Police, RAB, Army, Navy and Airforce all wanted a piece of the action. This mess shows that the Law Enforcement agencies did not have an overarching approach to tackling these sorts of attacks. What was needed was a focused and small group of commandos who would know that it was more important to capture these guys if possible and go after the network. The Master-Blaster approach leaves the government no means to go after the chain of command. The Jihadi Paymasters insist on suicide by their troops precisely because they want to obliterate all links.

Now that I did a mini postmortem of the Gulshan attack, let’s explore what the Government of Bangladesh can or should do.

1. Paradigm Shift: This will require that the Prime Minister stop the petty politics and acknowledge that Jihadists are a mortal threat to the country. The threat is existential in that the economy can collapse because of lack of foreign investment and involvement in industries just gaining a foothold (the garments industry comes to mind). More and more disaffected youth can emulate the murderers and finally the basic security for the people of the country could become non-existent. The Government must get away from the “local hoodlum” narrative to the real culprits, the global jihadists with an aim to hasten the end times!

2. Create focused anti-terrorist organization: This is where Bangladesh has to learn from the experiences of other countries. In the US the JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) has members from every conceivable agency and the armed forces. They gather intelligence, prosecute strikes and in general act as the tip of a very sharp spear. Bangladesh needs to create a central command focused on the Jihadists. Their job would be not to negotiate, but to act as the business end of the policy of total elimination. Let the policymakers negotiate, the special task force should hunt down these killers, period.

3. An alternate Islamic Narrative: I grew up as a Muslim. I remember spending oodles of time with my Hindu friends, going to Durga Puja, eating at their house, fishing with friends. None of these were frowned upon. Then came 1971 and the Pakistanis tried to sow seeds of discord between us. We resisted and even today I am friends with my Hindu and non-religious friends. With the exception of the Wahhabi strain no other versions of Islam practice intolerance, bigotry and mayhem. Bangladesh as a policy must defend its Hindu and Christian minorities and promote secularism as an antidote to the backward looking mullahs. What seduces the youth is the desire to do something meaningful. The new narrative can be one of helping the poor, working to protect the environment and so on. We need a new Islamic narrative that harkens back to the days of my childhood.

4. Stop the Money from Saudi: The Saudis have virtually destroyed the tolerant culture of Kosovo. They have made Pakistan a failed state. I have been to Pristina, Kosovo right after the Bosnian War and the place sounds like a hellhole compared to my experience of the place. Know that Wahhabi tainted Saudi money is poison. Reject it wholesale.

5. Get help: I hope the government puts aside its silly pride and gets financial and technical help from countries like the US and India, maybe even from “little England”. US is the best place to get help from. The question is can or will Bangladesh give up the teenage puffery and get the help needed to counter these murderers.

Yes, I think the Gulshan attack is Bangladesh’s 9/11. It is time to create a united front against this extremist ideology and stamp them out. Would we have the courage and foresight to give humanity a chance time?

Source: bdnews24


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