Bangladesh experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2020: US report

Bangladesh experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2020, accompanied by an increase in terrorism-related investigations, and arrests, according to the latest US Country Reports on Terrorism.

In 2020, there were three specific terrorist incidents, resulting in no deaths, in Bangladesh.

As in prior years, the Bangladeshi government denied Bangladesh-based terrorists have meaningful ties to transnational terror groups, including ISIS or AQIS, the State Department said in the report. 

An appeal is pending before the Bangladeshi Supreme Court following the Counter-Terrorism Special Tribunal’s 2019 sentencing of seven individuals to death for supporting roles in the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack, in which attackers claiming allegiance to ISIS killed 20 people, including one American. 

“Ongoing deficits in Bangladesh’s judicial system, magnified by the constraints of operating during a global pandemic, contribute to a decade-long backlog of terrorism cases and a conviction rate estimated at less than 15 percent,” the report said.

“The Bangladesh government continued to articulate a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism and the use of its territory as a terrorist safe haven. In January the government’s new national Antiterrorism Unit began standing up operations, to eventually assume a role as a lead counterterrorism agency.”

Terrorist incidents in Bangladesh in 2020 included an improvised explosive device blast near a police box in Chattogram on Feb 28, a crude bomb planted at a Hindu temple in Naogaon on Jul 31, and another IED planted on a police motorcycle in Dhaka on Jul 24.

Despite lacking laws specific to foreign terrorist fighters, Bangladesh arrested suspects or facilitators of such fighters on other charges under existing law, the US report noted.

Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to strengthen control of its borders and ports of entry. 

“The international community remains concerned about security procedures at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. US.trained explosive detection K9 teams remain available to patrol Dhaka’s international airport but are not a permanent presence,” according to the report.

Bangladesh actively shared law enforcement information with INTERPOL but does not have a dedicated terrorist Alert List.

However, the United States and Bangladesh continue to work on building Bangladesh’s technical capacity to develop a national-level Alert List of known or suspected terrorists.

US government-trained investigators used actionable intelligence to prevent an attack at the Hazrat Shahjalal Shrine in Sylhet. Bangladesh law enforcement arrested six individuals in Sylhet who have been linked to the Naogaon and Chattogram attacks.

The US found no significant updates on terrorism financing in Bangladesh in 2020.

To counter violent extremism, the authorities worked with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness about terrorism. 

Law enforcement authorities worked with local universities to identify missing students and curb terrorist radicalisation among university students.

Throughout 2020, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crimes Unit and the Rapid Action Battalion established “deradicalisation and rehabilitation programmes,” in addition to conducting community policing efforts and investigations and arrests of suspected foreign terrorist fighters.

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The report said police engaged religious leaders to counter terrorist propaganda with scripture-based messages and engaged imams to speak to surrendered militants with their own messaging to explain that the Quran does not support terrorist violence