A Troubling Trend in Bangladesh

on August 7 | in Terrorism

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This early afternoon in Dhaka, several men made their way to the 4th floor apartment of blogger Niloy Chakrabarti, who went by the name Niloy Neel, and hacked him to death with machetes.

One terrible politically motivated murder is a tragedy. Two is disconcerting. Any more carried out by different people but in the same way is a trend.

This latest murder by multiple assailants wielding machetes of a secular blogger in Bangladesh is the fourth in two years. One victim, Avijit Roy, was an American citizen.

The comically inept al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), as well as another radical group, Ansar Bengala 7, have both claimed credit for some, but not all, of the bloggers’ murders. Multiple attackers means multiple suspects—which indicates an organized effort to liquidate these writers in a systematic manner.

Such a low-tech campaign of murders aren’t really al Qaeda’s style. But if there is indeed an AQ link, this is a sad day for Bangladesh since the nation of almost 170 million has largely been spared the agonies of the terror group’s depredations. This is because, according to the former U.S. Ambassador Dan Mozena, Bangladesh is a “moderate, tolerant, democratic country” and “a viable alternative to violent extremism in a troubled region of the world.”

While radical transnational Islamist groups certainly exist in Bangladesh, they haven’t had the prominent spotlight as they have had in Pakistan, the nation that Bangladesh broke away from in a horrific civil war in 1971. Unlike in Pakistan, there are no prominent terrorist leaders in Bangladesh who live openly and freely despite a $10 million bounty on his head, like Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed. Nor does Bangladesh harbor murderous terror groups like the Taliban that destabilize bordering nations.

Even Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (HUJI), a radical terror group responsible for bombings and attacks against politicians, has been relatively quiet lately. As such, you rarely hear about terror in that particular part of South Asia, and thus there are no UAVs or American special operations forces carrying out operations on the streets of Dhaka.

That’s one of the reasons why the machete murders are a step in the wrong direction for Bangladesh. Neel told The Guardian earlier this year that he feared for his life but police wouldn’t take him seriously.

Maybe this latest killing will spur the government to get serious about cracking down on these radical groups. The U.S. government should certainly pressure Dhaka to arrest and convict Roy’s murder. But more broadly, if al Qaeda is indeed responsible for these killings, the fever of radical transnational terror has sadly and finally reached Bangladesh.

photo: Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Asian Development Bank.)

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