By Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Bangladesh needs a concerted effort from the entire nation to deter terror attacks similar to the Easter Sunday church and hotel bombings in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Friday.
After meeting Thursday night with leaders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, Hasina said terrorists cannot be eliminated through military and police operations alone.
“Risk of terrorism is there. But, yes, I can assure you that we are aware. Our intelligence agencies have been working splendidly,” Hasina said during a news conference at her official residence.
“We have been adopting deterrent measures. At the same time, I also know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies cannot eliminate them alone,” she said. “We have to do it with a concerted effort. So, I urge people to create public opinion against militancy and terrorism.”
Hasina said that Bangladesh as a nation has faced the threat of terrorism since its birth. Her father and the nation’s first leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and other family members were assassinated in 1975, four years after Bangladesh declared independence. Hasina and her sister were out of the country at the time of the attack.
The prime minister expressed gratitude for the people of Bangladesh who have shown an overwhelming response against militants.
“Whenever I urged them to stand against militancy, I got overwhelming response from the people, even from the remotest areas,” Hasina said.
Sri Lanka attack
On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers killed about 250 people in churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. Previous reporting listed the death toll at about 360 but was reduced because of a calculation error and difficulty in identifying bodies of the victims, according to officials.
The Islamic State, through its news agency Amaq, claimed responsibility for the attacks and released a video of eight men declaring their loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Sri Lankan authorities believe that the Islamic radical groups National Thowfeek Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim were responsible, news reports said.
The Sri Lanka attack hit home for Bangladeshis and Hasina specifically with the death of an 8-year-old boy, Zayan Chowdhury, the grandson of Sheikh Selim, a top leader of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League who is Hasina’s cousin.
Hasina expressed abhorrence for terrorists.
“My opinion is, those involved in militancy have no religion,” she said. “They have no country and they have nothing.”
Bangladesh has been targeted in terrorist attacks in recent years, most notably the July 2016 siege of a Dhaka café in which militants hacked to death 20 hostages.
IS claimed responsibility for the attack, but Bangladeshi officials adamantly denied that it was linked to Islamic State or that the group had a presence in the South Asian nation.
On Friday, imams followed Hasina’s request and offered special prayers at mosques across the country.
“Our imam offered prayer for the victims of terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. He also delivered an anti-militancy sermon,” Mostafizur Rahman, who attended Friday prayers at the central mosque in Naogaon in northern Bangladesh, told BenarNews in a phone interview.
“People respect the clerics. If the clerics get united and preaches anti-militancy sermons, the militant would not be able to attract the youths,” he said.
Earlier this week, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said security forces have been able to thwart militant efforts.
“Our law enforcers have crushed their backbone and networks. But we are not complacent. We have taken preventive measures, so the militants cannot stage any sabotage,” he said.