Bangladesh – Bomb Explosion in May – Continuing ISIS Influence or Local Blasts?
What is the incident? Where, how, when, why?
On the night of 26th May, a crude bomb exploded at the Malibagh intersection of Dhaka, injuring a policewoman and a rikshaw puller. The blast also set fire to the rear end of a police vehicle and two firefighting units were dispatched immediately in response, however, locals in the area stepped forward and doused the fire immediately. There were no fatalities.
However, reports state that the bomb, an Improved Explosive Device (IED), was made of powerful chemicals and ingredients and according to an explosives expert, would have created a devastating impact had the makers been well trained. This was reiterated by an official from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit who further noted that the bomb was similar to the one that had gone off in Gulistan last month which had woundedtwo policemen and a community policeman. The Daily Star reported that explosives used in the crude bomb explosion in Gulistan of poor quality however the manufacturing was different from that of conventional crude bombs. The IEDs used in Gulistan and Malibagh had batteries attached to them, a technique used by militants. However, the bomb used at Malibaghhad a timer, splinters and a special kind of chemical, which were not present in the previous bomb, said the official on condition of anonymity.
Following the incident, all police units were put on alert and instructed to take cautionary measures such as, for instance, not to leave any of their vehicles unattended, ensuring highest levels of screening at police establishments and carrying out block raids. This is because in both Malibagh and Gulistan blasts, the police were allegedly the target.
While the viewpoint too is under investigation, the DMP Commissioner has stated that the “attack on the police is aimed at destroying their courage as police have been successful in combating terrorism”.
Which organization is likely to be behind the blast?
In a few hours after the bombing took place, the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which specialises in tracking online presence and actions of white supremacists and jihadist organisations, stated that the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks. However, DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia did not verify the information straightaway and asserted that they will “consider both local and international aspects during the investigation.”He acknowledged that many foreign elements indulged in propaganda and that any possible links were being investigated. At an event last month, CTTC chief Monirul Islam had commented that terrorist groups in Bangladesh currently did not have the capacity to carry out an organised attack. Post the Malibagh attacks, he maintained that they were yet to trace any connections.
What is the likely Impact of the Blasts?
While the SITE Intelligence Group has stated that IS has claimed responsibility for the Malibagh attacks, the Bangladeshi government has continued its stance of denying the presence of IS within their territory, despite several experts repeatedly stating that a series of brutal attacks on minorities and secular activists in Bangladesh had the hallmarks of IS group. In 2016, Bangladesh launched a severe crackdown on Islamist militants.
This was spurred by the July 2016 attack in which terrorists stormed into a café in Dhaka and fired indiscriminately, killing 22 people, 18 of them foreigners. The IS claimed responsibility for the attack. Since then, while the Hasina-led Bangladeshi government has killed 100 terrorists and detained several others across the country, it has consistently ruled out any presence of the IS in the country.
By ruling out the hand of the IS and assuming that it is claiming credit solely for propaganda purposes, the recent blasts comprising use of sophisticated material have raised concerns about new, upcoming terrorist groups such as the Neo JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) with growing capabilities to launch fresh attacks and destabilise the country.
Research Compilatjon by Gauri Noolkar-Oak