In Brief

New York attack: does Bangladesh have a terrorism problem?

City authorities are investigating suspect Akayed Ullah’s family and upbringing in the South Asian country

US investigators are piecing together a biography of suspected New York attacker Akayed Ullah, digging into his former life in Bangladesh and his more recent years as a limousine driver and electrician in Brooklyn.

The 27-year-old immigrant is suspected of trying to blow himself up at New York’s main bus terminal “in retaliation for US attacks on so-called Islamic State”, says the BBC. But investigators will want to know what led to the bombing, and who - if anyone - might have assisted the suspect.

Ullah relocated to the US from Chittagong, a coastal city in southeast Bangladesh, in 2011, CBS News reports, along with his parents and siblings, entering on an immigrant visa. Just over a year later, he obtained a livery licence, permitting him to drive for-hire vehicles, although this lapsed in March 2015. He is then believed to have begun working at a relative’s electrical company, says The Sun.  

Ullah is believed to have travelled to Bangladesh in September, returning a month later, CBS says. Before that, he reportedly visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While UAE nationals have been linked to terrorist attacks including 9/11, Bangladesh is “often overlooked by analysts”, says The Guardian, even though the poverty-stricken Muslim-majority nation has experienced “an acute intensification of jihadist activity in recent years”.  

In July 2016, at least 20 people - mostly non-Muslim foreigners from Italy and the US - were hacked to death in a bakery in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. Isis claimed responsibility, although the government blamed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, a Bangladeshi Islamic group, Foreign Affairs reports.

Dhaka insisted, controversially, that Isis had no presence in Bangladesh, The Diplomat says, although images released on the internet showed the attackers – all men in their 20s – posing with the Islamic State black flag.

Several other terrorist attacks preceeded and followed the bakery massacre. In early 2017,  there were three botched suicide bombings in and around Dhaka, following which army commandos killed four suspects after a prolonged battle, the BBC says. Seven to eight people were later found blown up in neighbouring Moulvibazar.

Although Bangladesh condemned yesterday’s New York attack, the source of Dhaka’s problem is not just the threat of terrorism, says Forbes. The problem has also been a government living in a state of denial.

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