‘IS Not Present’ in Bangladesh, Minister Says After Attack on Shiites

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
151026-BD-bombvictim-1000 Doctors at Dhaka Medical College hospital attend to a girl who was injured in the bombing of a Shiite procession, Oct. 24, 2015

The Islamic State (IS) is not operating in Bangladesh, a top government official stressed, denying that the group had carried out an attack on the country’s minority Shiite community.

The denial came after a similar rejection of claims by the extremist group that it murdered two foreign nationals in Bangladesh in late September and early October.

“The police have already arrested four people on charges of the attack. The attack on the Shia was aimed at making it credible that the Islamic State is active here. This is basically a ploy to destabilize the country’s communal harmony. I once again assure you IS is not present in Bangladesh,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.

A series of explosions killed a 16-year-old boy and injured more than 85 Shiites as they gathered before dawn Saturday for a march celebrating Shia Islam’s Ashura holiday.

The explosions were caused by improvised grenades thrown into the crowd, security officials said. Four suspects arrested later that day were identified as Abdul Quader Jilani, 31, Shafiqul Islam, 28, Morsalin, 18, and Mohammad Faisal, 16, police said.

“Suddenly, I was startled with a big boom and a flash of light; then another big sound, and then another. The people started running in whatever direction they found,” eyewitness Md. Faruk, 30, told BenarNews.

“I found many people, including children, groaning in excruciating pain. It was a horrible atmosphere. The people were crying for help,” he said.

On Monday, a day after a parliamentary committee grilled Khan about the attack on the Shia gathering, as well as the Sept. 28 and Oct. 3 shooting deaths of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella and Japanese farmer Kunio Hoshi, police announced the arrests of four suspects in the Tavella case.

In all three cases, IS posted messages on the internet claiming responsibility, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based website that monitors jihadist social media traffic and other communications online.

Peaceful co-existence ‘destroyed’

Every year, Bangladesh’s one-million-strong Shiite community marks Ashura, the day in 680 A.D. when Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and his followers were killed in a battle in Karbala, in present-day Iraq. The Shia community observes the holiday with a procession of mourning.

Saturday’s attack was unprecedented in Bangladesh, members of both Shia and Sunni communities said.

“Over one million Shias have been living peacefully with our Sunni brothers in Bangladesh for over 400 years. We have never seen any attack or threat or intimidation by any group,” Mirza Feroz Hussain, superintendent of Hussaini Dalan, an historic Shia site where the attack took place, told BenarNews.

Bangladesh is not like India and Pakistan, where majority Sunni Muslims view Shiites as apostates, according to Ayesha Begum, a professor of Islamic history and culture at Dhaka University.

“Here, in Bangladesh, we do not even bother about who is Sunni and who is Shia. Shia-Sunni marriages are very common. The attack has destroyed the long tradition of peaceful coexistence; this is the biggest loss for us,” Begum, who is Sunni, told BenarNews.

Suspects ‘confess’

Four suspects (front row) in the murder of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella are paraded before reporters outside Dhaka Metropolitan Police headquarters, Oct. 26, 2015.
Four suspects (front row) in the murder of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella are paraded before reporters outside Dhaka Metropolitan Police headquarters, Oct. 26, 2015.

Four suspects (front row) in the murder of Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella are paraded before reporters outside Dhaka Metropolitan Police headquarters, Oct. 26, 2015. [BenarNews]


On Monday, Dhaka Metropolitan Police paraded four suspects, including three “professional killers,” who were arrested for the Tavella murder.

Minhajul Abedin Rasel (also known as Vagne Rasel), Rasel Chowdhury (alias Chakti Rasel), and Tamjid Ahmed Rubel (alias Rubel) were directly involved in Tavella’s murder in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone, Dhaka Police Commissioner Asaduzzam Mia told reporters.

A closed-circuit camera had filmed them near the crime scene, and they confessed to police about the killing, but the number one suspect in the murder remains at large, Mia said.

Sakhawat Hossain (alias Sharif), an alleged drug and arms peddler, was identified as the fourth suspect. His motorcycle was used in the killing, police said.

“The motive of the killing was to create an impression internationally that foreigners and their interests are not safe in Bangladesh. This is aimed at putting pressure on the government,” Mia said, adding, “We will soon arrest the ‘big brother’ and recover the fire arms used in the murder.”

Seven suspects, including two politicians from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), have already been arrested in connection with Hoshi’s murder in Rangpur, in northern Bangladesh.


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