DHAKA–Canada is the latest country to issue a security alert to its nationals in Bangladesh, following similar moves by the US, UK and Australia earlier this week. The move follows the murder of an Italian aid worker in the upscale diplomatic zone in Dhaka on the evening of Monday, Sept. 28.
The killing became a matter of concern after Islamic State, the radical Islamist militant group, reportedly claimed responsibility for the murder, a few hours after it occurred.
In its travel advisory to Canadian citizens in Bangladesh, the official Canadian embassy website mentioned “there is a threat of terrorism in Bangladesh.” Pointing out that the governments of Australia and the UK have already informed their citizens around the end of September 2015 that “there is reliable information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Western interests in Bangladesh,”the statement warned that “attacks cannot be ruled out and could be indiscriminate.”
The alert continued, “Terrorist attacks could occur at any time and could target areas frequented by expatriates and foreign travelers. Limit your attendance at events where Westerners may gather, for example in hotels or conference centers.”
A day before this, the US government had alerted their nationals in a similar manner. In the alert, US officials said, “There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh. Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners, including US citizens.”
The alert then went on to provide instructions to its nationals in case of “increased threat.” It stated, “US citizens should maintain a high level of vigilance and situational awareness and should exercise caution in public places including restaurants, hotels and other places frequented by foreigners.”
The alerts followed the murder of 50-year-old Italian national Cesare Tavella around 7 pm on Sept. 28 in Road 90 of Gulshan, the diplomatic zone in capital Dhaka. Tavella had been jogging in the area.
Tavella was serving as project manager at the Netherlands-based non-government organisation (NGO) ICCO Cooperation’s Profitable Opportunities for Food Security (PROOFS) program.
Local Bdnews24.com reported that rickshaw mechanic Md Joynal had witnessed three assailants fleeing on a motorcycle. One of them was wielding a gun, according to the witness.
Qazi Md Abu Shama, a forensic expert, who had examined Tavella’s body told the media in Dhaka this morning that Tavella was “shot three times from behind at close range.” Shama also stated that the bullets came from a revolver.
Tavella survived the initial shooting. But succumbed to his wounds after he was rushed to a nearby hospital.
A few hours later, SITE Intelligence Group, a jihadist threat monitoring portal, published a news that mentioned that the Islamic State had claimed responsibility for the murder.
The murder has unnerved foreign nationals as well as locals though the government is attempting to allay their fears.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the media on Tuesday evening that the police and detective branch have been provided with necessary instructions to find the culprits behind Tavella’s murder.
“We are careful about the investigation,” he said. “There is no activity of IS or like-minded organisations (in Bangladesh),” he said.
Militant organisations often claim responsibility for such killings and this time IS is claiming credit, the home minister said. “We are investigating the claim,” he said.
Prior to Monday’s killing, Bangladesh’s government had been busy dealing with earlier security concerns raised by the UK and Australia over the past week.
The UK had issued an alert to its citizens in Bangladesh following decision by Cricket Australia’s (CA) decision to delay its cricket team’s arrival in Bangladesh over security concerns.
“There is reliable information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had said earlier. This prompted the Australian cricket team to make the decision.
The Home minister, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and law enforcing agency officials in Dhaka had coincidentally met CA’s head of security of CA on Monday, a few hours before aid worker Tavella’s murder. Bangladesh authorities had assured CA that the Australian team members would be provided with “VVIP security.”
When asked about the situation on Tuesday evening, Kamal assured that Tavella’s murder isn’t likely to aggravate the Australian Cricket team’s visit.
“Previously, we talked with Australian cricket authorities and had assured them maximum security,” Kamal said.
BCB president Nazmul Hassan was quoted by Australia’s ABC News as saying the security warning by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the subsequent travel delay by the CA team “has shocked me.”
“This is very disappointing for us. There is no risk for them in Bangladesh,” Hassan said.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based freelance journalist and the editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.
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