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Bangladesh Cracks Down

Bangladesh Cracks Down

Author: Alex Perry
Publication: The Times
Date: December 23, 2002
URL: http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501021223-400076,00.html

If attacks such as Sept. 11 and the Bali bombings have any positive spin-off, it is that governments from Indonesia to Pakistan are finally conceding that they have a terrorism problem. Not so Bangladesh. When four simultaneous bombs exploded in crowded cinemas in Mymensingh on Dec. 7, killing 17 people and injuring 200, home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury didn't blame al-Qaeda or any home-grown movement but his government's political opponents. Police arrested 32 people in Mymensingh, among them leaders of the opposition Awami League (AL). In the capital, Dhaka, several more AL members as well as a handful of journalists were de-tained. The response was indicative of the draconian stance displayed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government against its op-ponents. Angry at news reports and accusations by India and the AL that fugitive al-Qaeda and Taliban members have taken refuge in Bangladesh, the government began a country-wide crack-down on Oct. 17, netting 3,400 'suspects' in-cluding journalists, opposi-tion-party politicians and garden- variety criminals. By the beginning of December, at least 12 people-human rights groups say 26-had died in detention, all, the authorities say, from heart attacks. Bangla-desh fears India is meddling in its affairs, helping foment domestic unrest. In fact, India all but openly supports the opposition AL. But even Dhaka's loyalists are beginning to question how long it will take the government to admit that the more 'enemies of the state' it jails, the less plausible India's in-volvement in any attacks appears.

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