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BD now a difficult place for terrorists to operate: US

21 June 2015 bdnews24.com

The US in its just-released annual counterterrorism report has appreciated Bangladesh's efforts to combat both domestic and transnational terrorist activities.The Department of State released 'Country Reports on Terrorism 2014' on Friday in Washington as part of its annual Congressional mandate.It said, Bangladesh had made counterterrorism "progress" in 2014, with the Sheikh Hasina government demonstrating "a commitment to counter both domestic and transnational terrorist groups".It showed "political will and firm commitment" to combat domestic and transnational terrorist groups, and made it "harder" for transnational terrorists to operate in or establish safe havens in its territory.The American foreign office said South Asia remained a front line in the battle against terrorism. According to the report, the numbers of terrorist attacks in 2014 increased 35 percent and total fatalities increased 81 percent compared to 2013, largely due to terrorist activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.More than 60 percent of all attacks took place in five countries: Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria.And 78 percent of all fatalities due to terrorist attacks also took place in five countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria.The increase in total fatalities was, in part, a result of certain attacks that were exceptionally lethal.In 2014, there were 20 attacks that killed more than 100 people, compared to two such attacks in 2013, the report said."No major terrorist incidents took place in 2014 in Bangladesh," the report pointed out.Releasing the report, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Tina Kaidanow said the report gave "an opportunity to review the state of terrorism worldwide and define the nature and the scope of the terrorist threat"."Doing so also allows us to assess our effectiveness and best calibrate our strategy and response".The report gave a detailed overview of Bangladesh's effort with its legislation, law enforcement, and border security issues; countering the financing of terrorism; regional and international cooperation; and countering radicalisation to violence and violent extremism.It said terrorist organisations used social media to spread their radical ideologies and solicit foreign fighters from Bangladesh.In a September 2014 audio message, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri included Bangladesh as one of the countries in which the newly-established al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent would seek to operate.Expatriate Bangladeshis have been arrested for attempting to recruit Bangladeshis to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).While Bangladesh was not part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, it was taking steps to address the threat, the State Department report noted.On Sept 29, police in Bangladesh arrested Samiun Rahman for allegedly recruiting militants for both ISIL and al-Nusrah Front.Bangladesh's criminal justice system is in the process of fully implementing the Antiterrorism Act of 2009 (ATA) as amended in 2012 and 2013.Although Bangladesh's ATA does not outlaw recruitment and travel in furtherance of terrorism, according to the report, the broad language of the ATA provides several mechanisms by which Bangladesh can implement UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2178, which requires nations to address the foreign terrorist fighter threat.Bangladesh cooperated with the US to further strengthen control of its borders and land, sea, and air ports of entry.Bangladesh continued to participate in the Department of State's Antiterrorism Assistance program and received counterterrorism-focused training for law enforcement officers.The report noted the laws related to countering terrorism financing, but said that implementation of those laws remained a significant issue by the absence of money laundering convictions.Bangladesh is a member of the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body.The report says Bangladesh is active in the full range of international fora.It is party to counterterrorism protocols under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and is bringing the country's counterterrorism efforts in line with the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy."The current government has demonstrated its strong interest in cooperating with India on counterterrorism."It has signed memoranda of understanding with a number of countries to share evidence regarding criminal investigations, including investigations related to financial crimes and terrorist financing.Countering radicalisation to violence and violent extremismIn 2014, Bangladesh became a board member and pilot country for the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience, a public-private global fund to support local, grassroots efforts to counter violent extremism.The report says Bangladesh uses strategic communication to counter violent extremism, especially among youth.The Ministry of Education provides oversight for madrasas and is developing a standard national curriculum that includes language, math, and science; and minimum standards of secular subjects to be taught in all primary schools, up to the eighth grade.The Ministry of Religious Affairs and the National Committee on Militancy Resistance and Prevention work with imams and religious scholars to build public awareness against terrorism."The terrorism challenges that we face continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and we cannot predict with precision what the landscape will look like one decade or even one year from now," Ambassador-at-Large Kaidanow said at the report launching briefing.

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