Terror attack in a Dhaka Cafe - Select Editorials from Newspapers in South Asia
6 July 2016
(Select editorials from daily newspapers Bangladesh, Pakistan, India on the killings of people in a cafe in the Gulshan district of Dhaka are posted below)
The Daily Star - July 04, 2016
The lessons of this tragedy
Wake up to the reality
The Prime Minister has announced two days of national mourning in honour of the 22 victims mercilessly murdered by a terrorist attack on a restaurant in Gulshan. The brutality of the killings and the long wait to see the end of the hostage crisis has left the nation shattered and with a sense of extreme unease.
But as we try to cope with the horror of this attack and show our commiseration for all those families who have lost their loved ones we must also wake up to the ramifications of this tragedy. This attack presents a whole new aspect of terrorism for us. So far we have been confronted with mainly lone targets, with the attackers singling out an individual who, in their minds, fit a certain profile and then carrying out the assassination. This attack focused on a larger target with the goal of causing maximum casualties. The methods employed and the savagery with which the killings were carried out are hallmarks of international terrorist outfits like ISIS and Al Qaida. This is clear. What is not clear is whether, after such overwhelming evidence of their presence, the official line will be one of denial?
It is high time we moved away from debates over whether the terrorists were homegrown or affiliates of ISIS or Al Qaida. We must acknowledge the ground realities that there are groups ideologically linked with such international outfits, the mandate of which is to kill innocents in the name of religion. We must combat this evil not just with more efficient, sophisticated security measures. We must fight this terror ideologically by finding ways to stop our young people from being radicalised and lured into the distorted path of murder and suicide, both acts categorically condemned by the religion they profess to be defending.
Dhaka Tribune - july 4, 2016
There are no words
There is nothing one can write or say at a time like this, which can do more than sketch the bare outline of the devastation that has been wrought on the families of those killed in the horrific carnage of the night of July 1, a date that will live in infamy in Bangladeshi and world history.
Tragedy has struck Bangladesh in the worst possible way.
By the official count, at least 22 men and women, including two police officers, lie dead in the biggest and most appalling terrorist attack this country has ever seen, and nothing will ever be the same again.
Make no mistake: This was an attack on all of us. This was an attack on Bangladesh itself.
This was an attack on all that we hold to be good and true. This was an attack aimed coldly and calculatedly straight at the nation’s heart to inflict the maximum possible amount of terror and pain.
The sorrow and suffering of the families of those killed cannot even be imagined, and we can only stand in support and solidarity with them and mourn with them for the senseless, sickening, and shocking loss of their near and dear.
We are thankful for and proud of the commitment of our law enforcement and military personnel who put their lives on the line to free as many hostages as they could.
And we must take the time to consecrate and reaffirm our belief in this beautiful, brave, unbowed country of ours.
We may have been bloodied, but we have not been beaten, and we never will be.
The terrorists behind this killing have exposed themselves as brutal, inhuman, and unfeeling.
They have laid bare the hollowness of their souls and of their claims to act in the name of God.
At a time like this, we must all stand together as one nation, shoulder to shoulder against the barbarous hordes that seek to tear down our very civilisation and destroy everything we hold dear.
Something like this can never happen again.
And we must vow, individually and as a nation, that we will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that this scourge is rooted out and banished from the face of the Earth.
This is an existential battle, and nothing less will be enough.
If it wasn’t clear to everyone before, it surely must be now.
It is us or them. And this is a battle we cannot afford to lose.
New Age - July 3, 2016
Justice must run its course over Gulshan attack
THE terrorist attack apparently by Islamist extremists at an upscale restaurant in the diplomatic neighbourhood of Gulshan in the capital Dhaka left 20 people of various nationalities killed and two police officers shot dead in the evening on Friday. The subsequent commando operation by the country’s security forces resulted in the rescue of 13 hostages, murder of six of the seven reported attackers and one of them being captured alive. The terrorist siege of the restaurant, first of such kind, took place following a series of attacks on individuals over the past couple of years, amidst a shrinking public space for debates, with the ruling quarters and the opposition camp blaming each other for the crimes, and the government’s repeated denial of the presence of any foreign Islamist group such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.
The gruesome murders in the restaurant at Gulshan and the instant notification of the Amaq, reported to be a news agency of the ISIS, about the events taking place at the venue, which eventually resembled with the facts as established by the army’s commando team, suggests that the ISIS’s previous claims of responsibility for the machete attacks in Bangladesh was not entirely baseless. The Amaq claimed early Saturday that ‘20 individuals of varying nationalities’ were killed while the army at a post-operation press conference on Saturday afternoon also admitted that 20 people had been killed before its commando operation.
However, while it is puzzling to think as how the armed attackers made their way to the restaurant, which is situated in a zone having so many police checkpoints at around, there is reason to admit that the commando operation, codenamed ‘Operation Thunderbolt’, a brief one lasting for less than half an hour, successfully rescued 13 hostages alive. Saving the lives of 13 individuals apart, the most successful component of the ‘operation’ was to have at least one of the attackers captured alive. The proper interrogation of the attacker in question might reveal the much-required information that the country badly needs to genuinely identify the political colour of masterminds behind the series of attacks.
Under the circumstance, we only hope that we would not hear any government-sponsored story of the captured attacker being killed in ‘crossfire’, the likes the people of Bangladesh have been hearing for years now, the most recent being the death of a young boy who was caught by the people from the scene of machete attack on a college teacher in Madaripur and handed over to the law enforcement agencies. It is high time that the government initiated a proper investigation of the gruesome attack, arrest the perpetrators and put them on trial in a public court through a transparent legal process. This is much more important for Bangladesh than rhetoric being traded between the opposing political camps, for the country needs to get rid of political extremism most.
Dawn, July 3, 2016
Tragedy in Dhaka
ON Friday night, the mass casualty terror strike that many cities globally have experienced in the recent past came to the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. At least 20 people have been confirmed killed in the terrorist attack, claimed by the militant Islamic State group, targeting a restaurant in Gulshan, an upmarket locality of Dhaka popular with foreigners. Though most victims were foreigners, Bangladeshis were also killed in the assault. It has been reported that most victims of the outrage were hacked to death. Observers had long been warning of a growing militancy problem in Bangladesh; the restaurant attack painfully brings home the fact that religiously inspired militants in the country are well organised to stage large-scale atrocities.
Though this particular attack stands out because of the high death toll and the brutality involved, killings believed to have been carried out by such militants have been occurring with some frequency in Bangladesh over the past few years. More than a dozen people have been hacked to death since April, while over the last three years, 50 victims have been murdered. Liberal and secular Bangladeshis have been among the victims, as have Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Ahmadis. Sufi and Shia Muslims have also not been spared. In fact, earlier on Friday, a Hindu man in the western part of the country was hacked to death. The Awami League-led government’s response has been a mix of denial — saying IS has no presence in Bangladesh — and knee-jerk reactions — such as cracking down on the opposition. For example, the ban on the opposition Jamaat-i-Islami, and the hangings of its leaders in connection with the tragic events of 1971, have been said to have pushed some opposition supporters and sympathisers towards extremism. Moreover, a round-up of suspects by police last month was said to have disproportionately focused on opposition activists. To prevent further terrorist atrocities, Bangladesh must clamp down on the infrastructure of militancy; the local supporters of IS, and similar groups, must be investigated and prosecuted if found guilty. However, crushing all dissent — including that of non-violent opposition groups — will be counterproductive and violate democratic norms. Dhaka must be clear in its counterterrorism strategy: those planning and supporting acts of terrorism must be targeted, not any and all opposition groups. A myopic strategy to lump together political opponents with suspected militants will fail to tame the beast of militancy in the country.
The Hindu, july 4, 2016
The horror in Dhaka
The attack in an upmarket café in Dhaka has left 28 people dead, including six gunmen, and Bangladesh clearly shaken. Over the past three years, the country has seen at least 40 targeted killings by militants, with each new attack raising fears about the growing clout of radicalised groups. The latest represents a marked escalation. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the nearly 11-hour siege. Till now the Bangladesh government has never accepted that the IS operates in the country. Even so, it is clear that IS-style rhetoric against minorities and foreigners and the use of horrifying violence are influencing Bangladeshi militants. Of late, gay rights activists, Hindu priests, secular bloggers and Shia mosques have all come under attack. In the latest, assailants separated foreigners from locals and hacked them to death one by one. The timing of the attack, at the start of the Ramzan holidays, may also be significant. The IS has called upon its supporters to attack “crusaders” and “apostates” during the holy month of Ramzan.
The Dhaka attack takes the fight to the government of Sheikh Hasina. For months, the government tried to play down the threats from jihadists, saying those were the acts of local groups. Its focus was on weakening the political opposition, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party. When liberal and secular activists were attacked, the government partly blamed them for “insulting religious sensibilities”. When the IS and al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the murders, the authorities said no foreign terrorist group was involved. It is only recently that the government launched a major crackdown on radicalised groups, but over this period the extremists have grown in strength to carry out mass attacks. The IS and al-Qaeda see Bangladesh as an arena of potential expansion. The IS had released audio propaganda in Bangla. The simmering tensions between the government and the Islamist organisations have lent radicalised groups an opportunity to drive their agenda and find recruits. To address this, the government needs both short- and long-term strategies. The immediate task is of course to address the worsening security situation. The targeted killings started three years ago, and the government has appeared to hold itself back on pursuing the murderers and their handlers. The long-term challenge is to check growing radicalisation. In this context, the ruling Awami League, perceived to be at the liberal end of the political spectrum, must step back and reconsider its high-handedness in dealing with opposition and dissent. If Bangladesh’s democracy is hollowed out, only the extremists will benefit.
The Times of India - July 4, 2016
Terror strikes Dhaka: Bangladeshi government needs a broad-spectrum approach to fight the menace
The horrific terror attack at the upscale Holey Artisan cafe in the Bangladeshi capital city of Dhaka, where Islamist terrorists took hostages before killing 20 of them, has necessitated a serious re-evaluation of the threat perception. Unlike the machete-wielding murderers of bloggers in Bangladesh, the gun-toting terrorists at Holey Artisan – who were neutralised by Bangladeshi security forces after a 10 hour siege – were well organised. That they chose to target a restaurant frequented by foreigners shows clear objective. The 20 dead include 9 Italians, 7 Japanese, an American and 19-year-old Indian Tarishi Jain. This indicates the terrorists wanted to send out the message that Bangladesh is unsafe for foreigners.
While the Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for this attack, hitherto the Bangladeshi government has refused to acknowledge the presence of transnational terror outfits in its country. Instead, it has blamed local extremists. But at this point it’s irrelevant to make such distinctions. The terrorists may well be local but they are inspired by a global radical Islamist agenda. For Bangladesh’s anti-terror response to be effective, Dhaka must take this into consideration. Focussing solely on local groups won’t do.
Second, Bangladesh’s fight against terror has been hobbled by domestic political acrimony. The ruling Awami League and its opponent BNP must work out a modus vivendi to fight the extremists. Otherwise, if Bangladesh falls under the global radical Islamist yoke, the country as a whole will suffer. Dhaka can no longer take a homeopathic approach to fight the Islamist terror virus, which has already infected Bangladeshi society.
The Tribune - July 4, 2016
Nightmare in Dhaka
Is the danger creeping towards India?
Dhaka had a bad night on Friday. Twenty hostages were killed in the most chilling fashion in a downtown café. There has never been such an attack in Bangladesh though at least 50 secularists, Hindus, Buddhists and Shias have been hacked to death in the last couple of years. The warring ladies of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina and Khalida Zia, had created a political vacuum in Bangladesh, allowing extremists to set up shop. They thus undid all the splendid work done in the past in routing extremists who had gained enough muscle to simultaneously explode 500 bombs in all but one of Bangladesh’s 64 districts. It has been downhill since then for Bangladesh with Sheikh Hasina taking to judicial hangings of several hardline leaders for their complicity with the Pakistan Army in 1971. On a parallel track, the extremists kept on plying their deadly trade.
For India, a big concern will be whether the ISIS threat in the subcontinent is for real or are these disaffected Muslim youths with perverted minds taking to violence? For the uninitiated, the ISIS is a Sunni-only organisation focused on resurrecting the medieval empire of Khorasan consisting of parts of Iraq, Syria and Central Asia. It has succeeded only in places where the authority of the state has withered. Bangladesh on the other hand has a vibrant civil society and a capable army. But the country badly needs political reconciliation to effectively counter the space for politics of violence.
In India, political Hindutva’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence with the `92 Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 riots has spawned sporadic counter mobilisation and given grist to the mills of those poisoning young minds in the name of Islam. Besides, India’s population mix with the Sunnis in a minority is not a conducive ground for the ISIS to attempt an Iraq, Syria or a Libya. It appears that like the attacks in the US and Europe, a small section of radicalised Muslim youth in Bangladesh has adopted a similar path. In India, the need is to go beyond beefing up security and rounding up youngsters by stepping up deradicalisation measures.
The Telegraph, July 4, 2016
The Holey Artisan Bakery siege places Bangladesh firmly on the global terror map and no amount of wistful denial on its part will change that fact. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, which has claimed credit for the massacre, may not have been in actual control of the operation, as the Sheikh Hasina Wajed government insists. But no government in its right mind would deny its influence in transforming the face of terror, which seems to have happened in Bangladesh as well. The attack on foreigners, in a modus operandi that is distinctly different from the isolated knifings and bombings that Bangladesh has seen previously, places the Dhaka siege in the same league as the terror attacks in many world capitals. Yet, the Bangladesh government seems unwilling to acknowledge that terror in Bangladesh has come of age. To continue to pin the blame on local groups may assuage its sense of guilt, but it does nothing to help its counter-terrorism effort, which has been plagued with innumerable shortcomings. For one, its ineffectuality, which is also the result of its world view. In spite of the growing incidence of attacks - on liberal intellectuals and members of minority groups - the government has not been able to move decisively against terror operatives. It has continued to blame the rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its affiliation with the radical Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami for all that has been plaguing the nation, and has ended up politicizing the counter-terror operation. The fact that the Hasina government finds it unnecessary to detach itself from the same logic while looking at the bakery siege shows that the same attitude might continue and thus stymie Bangladesh’s fight against terror.
For India, it is essential that Bangladesh succeeds in this fight. It would find its peace threatened if, like Pakistan to its west, Bangladesh were to become a sanctuary for terror groups using its terrain to direct operations against India. Working in tandem after years, both India and Bangladesh have managed to act against some such groups. This cooperation can persist in countering groups that align themselves with either al Qaida or the ISIS, both transnational groups that require transnational operations to disable them. But Bangladesh has to realize that terror today is no longer the localized phenomenon it wishes it to be. And it is not just political rivals or a clutch of misguided religionists with a grudge against the government who are to blame for it.
Engineer aged 80 lost his life in Dhaka trying to help the country (THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, July 4, 2016) http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201607040051.html