On 2 July, a violent terrorist attack in a restaurant located in a diplomatic area of capital Dhaka cost the lives of 22 people, most of them Italians and Japanese. The IS claimed responsibility for this slaughter whereas the government instead accused the banned domestic jihadist group Jamaeytul Mujahdeen Bangladesh.
Impact on country risk
Since the 2014 elections were boycotted by the opposition Islamic Party BNP, Bangladesh has been facing a political deadlock. The ruling Awami League (AL) sticks to power and is increasing repression of opposition Islamic sympathisers for political rather than security purposes. In this deteriorated climate characterised by falling freedom of speech, this traditionally moderate Muslim country sees Islamic radicalism grow which explains the wave of assassinations hitting non-Muslims (e.g. religious minorities), civil society and intellectuals since 2014. PM Sheikh Hasina stubbornly refuses to see any connection with the IS for economic reasons – fearing to scare foreign investors primarily in the key garment industry – and political ones, by weakening the opposition and presenting itself as the guarantor of domestic security. The latest well-orchestrated attack, however, is different in nature and magnitude from past attacks against individuals and leaves no doubt about the IS responsibility and ‘ideology’ spilling over to local Islamic militants. It is time for the no longer credible AL’s denial of locally active international jihadist networks to be replaced by an acknowledgement of the Islamist threat which leads to a determined government fight against Islamic extremism and to heightened intelligence services. A policy change is in the national interest for security and domestic stability aims, and for Bangladesh’s impressive economic resilience which might eventually be threatened by rising tensions between Islamists and secularists and by terrorism. Meanwhile, further terrorist attacks against similar targets are likely in the one-year outlook.
Analyst: Raphaël Cecchi, email@example.com