By Jesmin Papri
Bangladesh police have tightened security at airports, foreign embassies and minority houses of worship after an intelligence report warned that militants could try to carry out attacks this week, authorities said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Shafiqul Islam confirmed the authenticity of a letter issued July 19 by police headquarters, seen by BenarNews, warning that militant groups could mount suicide attacks or remote-controlled bombings.
“We have already enhanced security according to the instructions of the police headquarters and the counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit. The security at night has been beefed up. We are inquiring about new tenants at every locality,” Shafiqul Islam told BenarNews.
Citing “intelligence,” the letter states that the “so-called Islamic State group” has announced a new unit called Bengal Ulawat, or Bengali-speaking branch, in time for Eid-ul-Adha, the Muslim holy day that falls on Aug. 1 this year in Bangladesh.
This could inspire local groups to mount attacks, it said.
Potential targets include police facilities and personnel, airports, foreign embassies – especially of the United States, India and Myanmar – and houses of worship of minority faiths, including mosques of the Shiite and the Ahmadiyya communities, shrines, temples, churches and pagodas.
“Yes, they have been informed,” Abdul Malek, joint commissioner of police in charge of protection and diplomatic security, told BenarNews when asked whether the foreign missions had been made aware of the threat.
“Militants across the globe think that carrying out attacks ahead of the Eid-ul-Adha is pious work,” said M. Maniruzzaman, a police counter-terrorism official. “The police have been directed to remain alert.”
But another police official and a military analyst expressed skepticism about the continued existence of Islamic State (IS) and its ability to carry out attacks.
“The threat is not so worrying. At the same time, we should not be indifferent,” Saiful Islam, a deputy commissioner of the counter terrorism and transnational crimes unit, told BenarNews.
“The militants always look for opportunities to carry out attacks. But they cannot do it, lacking strength,” he said.
An analyst, meanwhile, pointed out that militants have been stymied.
“IS has lost its territory in Iraq and Syria. Most possibly, the Bengal Ulawat has no connection with the IS,” retired Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Shikder, a security analyst, told BenarNews.
“After the Holey Artisan café attack, the militants could not carry out major attacks due to the counter terrorism activities of law enforcers,” he said.
The 2016 attack at a café in Dhaka that left 29 people dead including 20 civilians was carried out by Neo-JMB, a faction of a domestic terror group that had declared allegiance to the IS.
Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.