A multi-day standoff in Bangladesh ended in violence today as militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State killed themselves in an explosion.
The blast killed up to eight people, including a child, and comes shortly after another operation targeting Islamist militants ended with bombings and the deaths of six people earlier this week.
Other militant hideouts are currently being surrounded by security forces, potentially signaling further bloodshed as the government works to implement a counter terrorism campaign that has seen multiple setbacks over the last few years.
Today’s violence took place in Sylhet, a region located in northeastern Bangladesh.
Terrorism, and specifically Islamic terrorism, was spotlighted in Bangladesh last summer when terrorists stormed a café in the capital of Dhaka, killing over 20 hostages before commandos raided the building and killed the militants.
The Bangladeshi government refuted claims by the Islamic State that it was behind the attack, insisting instead that a domestic terror group called Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was to blame. Authorities have again identified JMB as responsible for today’s incident in Sylhet.
Bangladesh has been wracked by political and ideologically motivated killings in recent years. The conservative Muslim nation has seen many instances of murders and persecutions against religious minorities and members of the LGBT community. Other victims include intellectuals and activists of various political persuasions. The government has been accused of doing little to prevent these attacks or prosecute the offenders, which critics have said embolden the acts.
The extent of Islamic State and al-Qaeda influence over these attacks has been debated. In typical IS fashion, they have been quick to claim credit for the largest and bloodiest attacks within Bangladesh. The government has denied all ISIS influence inside Bangladesh, possibly in an effort to brand domestic political opponents as terrorists themselves.
Up until now, most attacks by terrorists in the country have been conducted with knives and other rudimentary weapons. Police reported today continuous gunfire and explosions right up until breaching the compound, discovering more bombs and grenades once inside. Suicide bombers, rare in Bangladesh, have also made recent appearances at police checkpoints, indicating an increasing level of sophistication amongst violent groups, whether they are affiliated with or supported by ISIS or not.
Image courtesy of the BBC