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Bangladesh: Cafe attack - further signs of growing extremism

05 July 2016

Cafe attack - further signs of growing extremism

On 1 July, in Dhaka's diplomatic zone of Gulshan, six Islamist militants opened fire and held dozens of people hostage in a café known for being popular with foreigners.

Though one gunman was captured and 13 hostages were rescued, 28 people were killed in the incident - including six Bangladeshis (two of whom were police officers), 17 foreigners, and five gunmen.

Survivors of the attack said the killers made the hostages recite verses from the Quran to identify who was Muslim and who was not. Those who could recite the Islamic holy book were spared, while those unable to were killed.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had deliberately targeted the citizens of 'crusader countries' - but it is not yet clear if the plot was organised by the group's leadership in Syria or developed locally in Bangladesh.

According to the Inspector General of Police, all seven of the attackers were local citizens.

Thomas Muller, persecution analyst at World Watch Research, says, "The increasingly volatile situation remains dangerous for the Christian minority."

Rising extremism in Bangladesh

On average, attacks by extremist groups are taking place against minorities - including religious, atheist and secular targets - every month.

An Open Doors researcher in the region said, "This latest attack is, however, the first concerted attack on foreigners, marking a major escalation in a campaign by militants in the South Asian country."

In recent years, Open Doors researchers have raised concerns of the rise of Islamic extremism in Bangladesh, which ranks as number 35 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

On 15 June, Bangladeshi authorities detained 145 suspected Islamic militants and more than 11,000 others as part of a four-day crackdown on extremism, various news sources including CNN reported. This took place after a series of brutal killings.

The most recent Christian killed for his faith was a 72-year-old businessman in the village of Bonpara on 5 June, UCA News reports. And in March, Christian evangelist Habib Alam* was killed by members of IS.

Source: Open Doors; CNN; UCA News

Please pray:

  • Pray for the people affected by this atrocity, especially the victims' families and friends. Pray also for the survivors' inner healing from the traumatic incident
  • Pray for Bangladeshi churches and missionaries; may their ministry not be hampered by the rising violence. May they practise extra vigilance, caution, and discretion while working in the Lord's field and serving His people.
  • Pray for the country to recover quickly from the crisis, and for authorities to take strong and effective measures in curbing the spread of terrorism.

More News from Bangladesh:

Find out more about persecution in Bangladesh.