Gauging the Success of Bangladesh's Anti-Terror Crackdown

November 17, 2017

Michael Hart

Hasina2, cc Russell Watkin/Department for International Development, modified, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sheikh_Hasina,_Honourable_Prime_Minister_of_Bangladesh.jpg

 

Since launching an anti-terror crackdown in response to a high-profile attack on a popular Dhaka café in July 2016, Bangladesh has not experienced another major attack. Yet 16 months on from the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery – during which terrorists massacred 20 civilians with sharp weapons before Bangladeshi commandos stormed the building – fears over violent extremism in the South Asia nation remain ever-present.

Despite thousands of arrests and the deaths of top militant leaders at the hands of state security forces, there are still signs of heightened political tensions and renewed militant activity just below the surface. These signs are raising new concerns over the potential for separatist violence and a new wave of attacks in a country that until recently had very little experience dealing with terrorism.

Whilst Bangladesh’s improved law enforcement capabilities have almost certainly prevented further bloodshed over the past year, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has faced criticism over its somewhat contradictory approach to confronting terrorism. At the same time as pledging to tackle Islamist militants head-on, the government has been accused of facilitating an environment in which extremist ideology can flourish.

This report explores whether Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism crackdown will ultimately prove successful in keeping a lid on militant activity, and asks whether the government in Dhaka is doing enough to combat the radical ideology fueling the violence.

 

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