Terror Tip Triggers British Air Cargo Ban: Bangladesh Minister

Jesmin Papri and Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.03.09
Dhaka
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160309-BD-Saudi-620 Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (right) meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir at her office in Dhaka, March 8, 2016.
Focus Bangla

Updated at 7:24 a.m. ET on 2016-03-10

Britain has banned direct cargo flights from Dhaka after receiving reports of a terrorist plot, Bangladeshi Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon told BenarNews on Wednesday.

“We came to know that they have got a terror plot report saying that a cargo consignment from Dhaka would carry something harmful to London,” the minister said, adding, “But this is really frustrating for us that they stopped the direct cargo flights from Dhaka, though we have adopted a number of counter-terrorism measures.”

Britain’s Department for Transport announced the ban and other restrictions on air cargo destined for the British Isles from Bangladesh on Tuesday, the day Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister met with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka to discuss their countries’ cooperation in fighting terrorism.

In announcing the indefinite ban, British transport officials said their government was working with Bangladeshi authorities “to support them in improving standards for all aspects of aviation security.”

The Transport Department’s statement did not mention any terror plot that might have prompted the new restrictions.

“Recent security assessments of Dhaka International Airport found that some international security requirements were not being met. As part of a set of interim measures, cargo will not be allowed on direct flights from Dhaka to the UK until further notice,” the department said.

“Airlines carrying cargo between Bangladesh and the UK on indirect routes are being asked to ensure it is re-screened before its final leg into the UK,” it added.

The latest move by British aviation officials came amid bilateral efforts aimed at improving security at major airports in Bangladesh – particularly for flights destined to Britain, which has a sizeable Bangladeshi expatriate community.

The British government, in its latest assessment of the security picture in the South Asian nation, also warned of a “high threat from terrorism in Bangladesh.”

“According to their suggestions, we adopted measures to upgrade the security regime at our airport in Dhaka. We deployed more security personnel, [and] procured modern security instruments such as scanners,” Khan Menon said.

“They have assured us that the ban will be lifted sometime in the current month,” he added.

‘Zero tolerance’

On Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir met with Prime Minister Hasina during a brief stopover in Dhaka.

The two discussed bilateral cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and other issues, including Bangladeshi migrants working in the Saudi kingdom, Hasina’s press secretary said.

“The prime minister said to the Saudi FM that Bangladesh has ‘zero tolerance’ toward terrorism and will cooperate to combat terrorism,” press secretary Ehsanul Karim said without being more specific.

In December, Bangladesh along with Malaysia announced they were joining a coalition of 34 Muslim countries headed by Saudi Arabia in an international effort to “defeat terrorism.”

Predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in a war in neighboring Yemen that pits Riyadh against forces backed by its main regional foe, predominantly Shiite Iran.

But both Bangladesh and Malaysia said they would not contribute any troops to the Saudi-led coalition. They then said that they agreed to exchange information and intelligence reports about terrorist threats with Saudi Arabia and other partners in the coalition.

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