ISIS claims responsibility for serial bomb blasts in Bangladesh
Three bombs exploded early Saturday morning have killed at least one person and
wounded dozens during a giant procession in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka honoring
the Shiite Muslim holiday of Ashura. The blasts have further frayed nerves in a
city already on edge over reports of extremist threats.
A social-media account
believed to be operated by the Islamic State group issued a statement online
claiming responsibility for the bombing, according to the SITE Intelligence
Group, which monitors extremist messages and propaganda.
The statement said
“soldiers of the Caliphate in Bangladesh” were able to detonate explosives in a
temple of “polytheists in the city of Dhaka, during the holding of their polytheist
It was the third act of
violence in Bangladesh that an Islamic State account has claimed in the past
month, after the murders of two foreigners, an Italian man and a Japanese man.
The Ashura procession,
organisers say, has proceeded uneventfully for 400 years, drawing throngs of
Sunni Muslims who wind through the narrow streets of Old Dhaka alongside their
There is virtually no
history of sectarian tension between Bangladesh’s Sunnis and its tiny minority
of Shiite Muslims. Shiite Muslims who proceeded to march later in the day said
they were still grappling with the notion that terrorists might attack
Bangladeshis based on their sect.
“Earlier, Pakistan was
the country where the Shias were under attack,” said Syed Ibrahim Khalil
Razavi, who was walking barefoot down a major thoroughfare at the head of a
procession that numbered in thousands.
“Now they target Shias
in other countries, like Syria and Iraq,” he said. “I suppose we cannot rule
out the possibility that this could happen in Bangladesh.” The attack came as a
new jolt to a city already anxious over Islamist violence.
After years of relative
dormancy, militant groups have become more visible over the past several years,
killing Bangladeshi activists and writers who were openly critical of
fundamentalist Islam, and releasing “hit lists” of others.
Late last month,
several foreign governments reported that they had gathered intelligence
suggesting that an international terrorist organisation was planning an attack
on foreigners in Bangladesh. That announcement was followed, ominously, by the
shootings of two foreigners, each of which was claimed by social media accounts
linked to the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
have questioned that claim, saying that they had traced the crimes to activists
from a banned pro-Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and the opposition
Bangladeshi National Party. On Saturday, the governing Awami League issued a
statement blaming the Bangladeshi National Party and Jamaat-e-Islami for the
attack in Dhaka.
“There is no existence
of Islamic State in Bangladesh,” said Quamrul Islam, Bangladeshi’s food
minister, who visited the site of the bombing on Saturday.
The Dhaka attack struck
an event that is the highlight of the year for Dhaka’s Shiite minority, and
which underlines its easy relationship with the Sunni majority.
“This is the old part
of Dhaka,” said Mir Zulfikar Ali, president of the Hossaini Welfare
Association, which helps to coordinate the event. “The Sunnis were born, the
Shias were born, they grew up over decades and they developed brotherly
“Somebody from outside
is trying to destroy this brotherly relation,” he added. “I do not know who it
More than 40,000 people
were gathered at the procession’s start when the first explosion occurred,
followed by two others about 15 seconds apart. Security camera footage shows a
densely packed crowd surging away from the first explosion, only to recoil from
the second one in the direction they were running.
“People tried to go
anywhere to save their lives, they were just running, it was complete panic,” Ali