Bangladesh authorities said Tuesday they were probing claims from the Islamic State that it was behind a petrol-bomb attack that injured three police officers in Dhaka, but a minister belittled the assertion as propaganda.
Unidentified assailants tossed a Molotov cocktail at officers who were manning a traffic intersection in the capital on Monday, injuring three of them, police officer-in-charge Mahmudul Haque Nayan told BenarNews. Witnesses said the injured officers were taken to a hospital.
SITE intelligence, a U.S.-based group that monitors online communications among Muslim militants, said the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack that involved the use of an incendiary firebomb often described as a “poor man’s grenade,” which consists of a bottle filled with fuel-soaked rag and a combustible liquid.
“A case has been filed and today we are sending the case to the counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit to investigate whether terrorism is the motive,” Nayan said.
SITE said the IS-linked Al Mursalat Media posted an electronic image in English, Bengali and Hindi on its Telegram pages threatening new attacks.
A SITE spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the image, which shows five members of Bangladesh militant group Neo-JMB who died in the Holey Artisan Bakery café attack that killed 20 civilians in July 2016. As that attack was ongoing, IS-linked media posted pictures of the same five men and claimed responsibility.
Tuesday’s graphic image also includes a caption that said: “Do you ever think that the anger of the mujahideen will suddenly bring destruction upon you? Then wait for that day … coming soon insha’allah (God willing).”
The IS message went out on same day the group’s supreme leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appeared in a video for the first time in five years, according to news agencies. He acknowledged IS' defeat in Syria, but vowed to take revenge.
“God ordered us to wage ‘jihad.’ He did not order us to win,” al-Baghdadi said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Tuesday denied any IS presence in the country – a stance he has held since the Holey Artisan attack. IS also claimed responsibility for two bombings in a week in March 2017 at sites near Dhaka’s aviation hub.
“This is propaganda from the same SITE intelligence group that IS carried out a Molotov cocktail attack,” Khan told BenarNews. “There is no IS presence in Bangladesh.”
“We have tackled the militants with an iron hand, crushed their backbone. The poster is nothing but an empty slogan,” he said.
“We are aware, and our law enforcement agencies are quite capable,” Khan said of efforts to stop militant attacks. “They would not be able to cause any harm in Bangladesh for the militants have no support among the people.”
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia, who spoke with reporters Tuesday morning after visiting the injured officers, did not rule out an IS role in the attack.
“The officials of the counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit have been examining whether IS agents or others pretending to be IS are responsible,” he said, adding the improvised bomb was more powerful than most Molotov cocktails.
“We are increasing the security of the traffic police,” he said.
The attack came hours after two militants died in an apparent suicide explosion as members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) surrounded their makeshift tin-shed house in the Bosila neighborhood of Dhaka, officials said.
RAB senior superintendent Mizanur Rahman told BenarNews that a case has been lodged under the anti-terrorism act against five to six unidentified assailants linked to the suicide blast.
“We have yet to ascertain the identity of the two militants who blew themselves up in Boslia. Our forensics team has been working to determine their identities,” he said.
In addition, the owners and caretaker of the house have been questioned but they are not suspects at this time, Rahman said.
Retired Brig. Gen. Sakhawat Hossain, who serves as a security analyst, supported Khan’s statement about IS not having a stronghold in Bangladesh.
“This is not a big issue whether IS carried out the attack. But the two incidents Monday indicate that the militants are regrouping,” he told BenarNews.
“The IS usually does not carry out attack of this nature such as throwing cocktails. But they can change their modus of attack following the destruction of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” he said.