Deadly Dhaka Ashura blasts; perpetrators remain unknown amidst ISIS involvement allegations

Shia bombing Dhaka victims BBC

PB Desk Report

A teenage boy was killed and scores others were injured, some of them badly, in a series of deadly blasts targeting a gathering of Shia Muslims at Hussaini Dalan in Dhaka early Saturday.

Police said at least four crude bombs were exploded as thousands of Shia Muslims gathered at Hussaini Dalan to bring out a procession marking the mourning day of Ashura at about 1:45am on Saturday.

Police said the injured included many women and children. The boy declared dead at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital was identified as Sajjad Hossain Sanju, a class six student.

Meanwhile, the attacks were condemned both nationally and internationally, with reactions from the political, security and diplomatic community prominently featured by various media.

US envoy’s strong reaction at attack on Shia gathering 

US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat has expressed shock at the bomb attack on a Shia gathering in the capital’s Husaini Dalan.

us embassy

In a Facebook statement on Saturday, the US envoy said: “I am shocked by the senseless attack on a Shia Ashura gathering outside Old Dhaka, and offer my deepest condolences to the victims and their families.”

Mentioning that Bangladesh has a long tradition of religious tolerance and communal harmony, she further said: “We stand with the Bangladeshi people and the Bangladesh government in these critical moments.”

British High Commissioner Gibson: Attack on Shia gathering unacceptable 

British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert W Gibson has said bomb attacks on Shia gathering is not acceptable.

The UK envoy issued the statement via his official Twitter account on Saturday immediately after a bomb attacks on a gathering that killed one person.

uk embassy

Gibson tweeted: “Horrified at attack on #shia #Ashura procession. Such violence and intolerance is not acceptable. My sympathies to those affected.”

IGP: Anti-liberation forces involved in Shia gathering blast 

Anti-liberation forces and war criminals might be involved in Muharram gathering bomb attacks in the capital’s Hosni Dalan area, Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hauqe has said, in an ill-concealed swipe at the opposition nationalist and Islamist parties by the top police official who has been quoted giving similar statements over the past several months, many of which have been expressed as strongly in defence of current administration security measures.

He told the above to journalists after visiting the crime scene at Hosne Dalan area in the old Dhaka and Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), reports BSS.

“Police, after a preliminary investigation, think that it was not the attack of any militant organization . . . It was carried out by anti-liberation forces and war criminals,” said Shahidul.

“Motive behind the killing of a police SI (sub-Inspector) at Gabtolly and today’s bomb attacks seemed to be interlinked as it appeared to be almost similar and the same circle committed the both the attacks,” the IGP observed.

Referring to confessional statement of Masud, who was arrested in connection with the killing of a sub-inspector at Gabtoli, the police chief said different groups have been assigned to create anarchy and instability across the country and “this blast is a part of their pre-planned destructive acts”.

Replying to a query, he said police did not find any militant link to the murder of police sub-inspector while anti-liberation forces were involved in the killing.

Earlier, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) commissioner Asaduzzzaman Mia, who also visited the injured at DMCH, said: “It seems that no militant outfits were behind the attacks; it was a part of planned design of vested quarter.”

SITE intelligence group claims ISIS behind attacks on Shia gathering

On the other hand, prominent Western media such the New York Times reported the involvement of ISIS in the attacks, citing the private intelligence organization SITE intelligence group, which is led by controversial terrorism analyst Rita Katz.

A social-media account alleged to be operated by the Islamic State group issued a statement online claiming responsibility for the bombing, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which claims to gather its intelligence and information by monitoring extremist messages and propaganda on the internet. It is led by Rita Katz, who was born to Jewish parents in Iraq, and later travelled to the US, building up a career by setting up the private intelligence organization over the course of a long career.

Though the claims of ISIS being behind the attacks have been brought forward by Western media, government officials in Bangladesh have been quick to refute the claims and have suggested a conspiracy behind the attacks by “anti liberation forces” in Bangladesh, a term commonly used by the Awami League administration to refer to the opposition nationalist and Islamist parties.

Opposition parties, especially the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have also voiced strong condemnation and demanded a fair investigation into the attacks on the Shia gatherings.