The Islamic State Attempts to Establish a Foothold in Bangladesh

Mar 16, 2016

On March 14, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in Bangladesh, announcing that its soldiers had stabbed to death "one of the most important Shi'ite preachers in south Bangladesh." Local police confirmed the death of the individual mentioned in the IS statement, Hafez Abdel Razzak, but denied that he was a Shi'ite preacher, claiming instead that he was a Sunni homeopathic medicine practitioner.

IS does not have a significant presence in Bangladesh and has not yet established a "province" in the country, saying instead that it operates a "security cell" there. However, this week's attack is not the first to be acknowledged by the group. As early as September 2015, IS claimed responsibility for a number of small-scale attacks that targeted foreigners. In the November 2015 issue of its English-language magazine "Dabiq," IS dedicated a special article to its operations in Bangladesh, titled "The Revival of Jihad in Bengal."

Furthermore, the group announced it had carried out two attacks against Shi'ite worshipers in October and November 2015, and on January 8, they claimed responsibility for the assassination of a Muslim convert to Christianity. Local authorities consistently deny the involvement of IS in terror attacks in the country, blaming local jihadist groups instead, likely in an attempt to downplay the risk and minimize the propaganda effect of the attacks.

The nature and frequency of IS attacks in Bangladesh suggests that the group's capacity in the country is very limited. It is also unlikely that IS will be willing to invest significant resources in a faraway country with negligible strategic importance, while struggling to retain its hold in its core areas of control. Notwithstanding, an occasional assassination of an "apostate" in remote areas, such as Bangladesh, is valuable for the group's propaganda machine, tasked with projecting continuous images of IS as an expanding global project.


IS claims to operate a "security cell" in Bangladesh, Dabiq magazine