Overview: Bangladesh experienced a decrease in terrorist activity in 2020, accompanied by an increase in terrorism-related investigations and arrests. In 2020 there were three specific terrorist incidents, resulting in no deaths. As in prior years, the Bangladeshi government denied Bangladesh-based terrorists have meaningful ties to transnational terror groups, including ISIS or AQIS. An appeal is pending before the Bangladeshi Supreme Court following the CT Special Tribunal’s 2019 sentencing of seven individuals to death for supporting roles in the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack, in which attackers claiming allegiance to ISIS killed 20 people, including one American. Ongoing deficits in Bangladesh’s judicial system, magnified by the constraints of operating during a global pandemic, contribute to a decade-long backlog of terrorism cases and a conviction rate estimated at less than 15 percent. The Bangladesh government continued to articulate a zero-tolerance policy toward terrorism and the use of its territory as a terrorist safe haven. In January the government’s new national Antiterrorism Unit began standing up operations, to eventually assume a role as a lead counterterrorism agency.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist attacks in 2020 included the following:
- On February 28 there was an IED blast near a police box in Chattogram, and on July 31 there was an attack at a Hindu temple in the Naogaon district where a crude bomb was planted. ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks. Two police and one civilian were injured in the Chattogram attack. No injuries or deaths resulted from the Naogaon attack.
- On July 24 a third attempted ISIS-inspired attack occurred involving a small IED planted on a police motorcycle in the Gulistan area of Dhaka, which later turned out to be fake.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: In 2020, Bangladesh’s criminal justice system was still working to fully implement the Antiterrorism Act of 2009 as amended in 2012 and 2013. The seven CT Special Tribunals authorized under the Act adjudicated cases in 2020, including the 2015 murder of blogger and science writer Ananta Bijoy Das claimed by al-Qa’ida affiliate Ansar al-Islam. Although Bangladesh’s Antiterrorism Act does not outlaw recruitment and travel in the furtherance of terrorism, the broad language of the Act provides several mechanisms by which Bangladesh may implement UNSCR 2396 on addressing FTFs. Despite lacking laws specific to FTFs, Bangladesh arrested suspected FTFs or facilitators of such fighters on other charges under existing law.
Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to strengthen control of its borders and ports of entry. The international community remains concerned about security procedures at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. U.S.-trained explosive detection K9 teams remain available to patrol Dhaka’s international airport but are not a permanent presence. Bangladesh actively shared law enforcement information with INTERPOL but does not have a dedicated terrorist Alert List. However, the United States and Bangladesh continue to work on building Bangladesh’s technical capacity to develop a national-level Alert List of known or suspected terrorists. Bangladesh does not systematically review or analyze Advance Passenger Information/Passenger Name Records (API/PNR). Bangladesh participated in a national-level workshop administered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC’s) Terrorism Prevention Branch to help strengthen implementation of these and other obligations to detect and prevent terrorist travel established in August under UNSCR 2396 .
Elements of the Bangladesh Police continued a campaign of arrests and raids against suspected militants. U.S. government-trained investigators used actionable intelligence to prevent an attack at the Hazrat Shajalal Shrine in Sylhet. Bangladesh law enforcement arrested six individuals in Sylhet who have been linked to the Naogaon and Chattogram attacks.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Bangladesh is a member and outgoing co-chair of the APG. The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2020.
Countering Violent Extremism: Bangladeshi organizations continued cooperative activities through the Country Support Mechanism under the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy, Resistance, and Prevention worked with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness about terrorism. The government included CVE in its National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, and a U.S.-funded grantee mentored and developed the skills of at-risk youths to reduce the risk of their joining terrorist organizations. Law enforcement authorities worked with local universities to identify missing students and curb terrorist radicalization among university students. Local research institutions, including private think tanks and both public and private universities, continued to engage in CVE-related research.
Throughout 2020 the CTTCU and the Rapid Action Battalion established “deradicalization and rehabilitation programs,” in addition to conducting community policing efforts and investigations and arrests of suspected FTFs.
The police engaged religious leaders to counter terrorist propaganda with scripture-based messages and engaged imams to speak to surrendered militants with their own messaging to explain that the Quran does not support terrorist violence.
The Bangladeshi cities of Dhaka North, Dhaka South, and Narayanganj are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: There were no changes in 2020.