East Asia Correspondent – David McDonald
The Number Of Islamic Terrorist Attacks In Bangladesh Likely To Increase Over The Next Year
The number of Islamic terrorist attacks in Bangladesh will likely increase over the next year. The Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda affiliated groups claimed responsibility for at least 45 attacks in Bangladesh since February 2015. U.S. officials believe that local extremist groups may be competing for the attention of international terror groups. Since 2010, Bangladesh has cooperated with the U.S. in bolstering its counterterrorism efforts. Yet, despite positive efforts toward increased security cooperation and intelligence sharing with the U.S., the combination of political corruption and the country’s lack of resources provide challenges in achieving real progress in combatting terrorism.
In 2014, a U.S. State Department report claimed that Bangladesh’s, “counterterrorism efforts made it harder for transnational terrorists to operate in or establish safe havens in its territory.” The report attested to Bangladesh’s successful counterterrorism capacity through its cooperation with the U.S. in preventing terrorists from entering the country.[i]
Despite this progress, attacks on an Italian foreigner[ii], a U.S. embassy worker and gay rights activist[iii], and numerous Christian leaders[iv] reveal a resurgence in Bangladeshi terrorism. Due to religious strife, and the increase of terrorist attacks, IS continues to intensify its efforts in recruiting Sunni Muslims within Bangladesh.[v]
On 19 May 2016, an Al Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility for the death of a doctor that Bangladeshi law-enforcement officials found decapitated.[vi] Five days earlier, authorities found pieces of a Buddhist monk in a temple in Baishari. This was a gruesome attack which later IS militants claimed responsibility for.[vii] These two events are the latest in a rash of attacks in Bangladesh since February 2015.
Some of the groups targeted by radical Islamists are foreigners, activists, atheist bloggers, and religious minority groups within the country.[viii] Al-Qaeda affiliated groups claimed responsibility for most of the attacks[ix], but the recent establishment of the official Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB) demonstrates a more concerning and purposeful rise of IS in the country.[x]
Despite these activities, Bangladeshi officials continue to deny any substantive IS presence, claiming instead that the opposing political party is responsible for the attacks.[xi] Bangladeshi government officials continue to cooperate with the U.S. State and Justice departments in combatting terrorism within the country. In May 2015, at a partnership dialogue in Dhaka, the two countries signed an agreement to improve their counterterrorism efforts within Bangladesh.[xii]
Recently in 2016 diplomatic meetings, Bangladeshi and U.S. diplomatic officials called for increased information sharing between the two governments. These officials hope that increased intelligence sharing and security partnership will help predict and preempt future attacks within the country.[xiii] Even with these efforts, Bangladesh’s continued political instability and lack of resources presents a challenge to future counterterrorism efforts.[xiv]
Analytic confidence for this assessment is medium. The analyst used an ACH matrix for this analysis. Source reliability is high with little conflict among sources. Not all sources were recent, as the analyst used older sources to provide background. The analyst’s expertise on the topic is minimal. The analyst worked alone for this analysis. The task complexity was moderately complex and the time constraint was sufficient.
[vi] Islamist militants kill doctor in Bangladesh’s Kushtia 24 May 2016 (accessed through Jane’s): “A HOMEOPATHY doctor was killed and his companion, a university professor, was wounded when Islamist militants attacked them using edged weapons after intercepting the doctor’s motorcycle in the Sadar area of Bangladesh’s Kushtia district on 20 May, Reuters reported. Reports stated that both men were known for their progressive views. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that the man had been killed for calling to Christianity.” (high)
Analysis of Competing Hypothesis, below. Does not present them in a diagnostic format.