Bangladesh’s Hasina survives another attempt on her life

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. Photo: EPA

Loyalist bodyguards and counter-terrorism officials foiled an attempt on Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in late August.

Intercepts suggested that a group of 6 to 7 personnel of the SSF, who guards the Prime Minister, were all set to attack Hasina in her office on 24th August.

At the same time, JMB jihadis would trigger huge explosions all around the office to divert the attention of the rest of her security detail to provide an escape route for the assassins.

"This plan was modelled on the Indira Gandhi assassination, an inside job to be performed by a section of recalcitrant bodyguards, but with outside support from jihadis," said a top Bangladesh official in an exclusive chat with this writer.

But the JMB's communication with the rogue SSF unit through a senior opposition leader was intercepted by both Indian and Bangladesh intelligence who jointly monitor the 'extremist chatter'  in Eastern South Asia and loyalists in the SSF managed to neutralise the plotters.

They were whisked off by counter-terrorism officials and their whereabouts are not known. But possibly they are under sustained interrogation to track down the 'roots of the conspiracy’.

When the intercepts were decoded and the attack plan came to light , PM Hasina was advised to stay in a location outside her office which she had visited for personal reasons. Loyal SSF personnel in her inner ring threw a strong cordon around her and only after the rogues had been apprehended was she able to return to her office.

"The whole operation was discreet, we still want to catch others involved, so no formal disclosures have been or will be made in the near future," the top official said.

Bangladesh and Indian intelligence suspect that there is a Pakistani hand in the whole plan and that it began to unfold after ISI Brigadier 'Ashfaq' met Khaleda Zia and her son Tareque in a London hotel in late July, as widely reported in the Bangladesh press.

What has not been reported is that before the planned hit on Hasina on Aug 24, two SSG officers Maj Gen Numan Zakaria and Maj Gen Tareq Gulzar had also met Khaleda and Tareque in the house of late Ziaur Rehman's cousin’s sister Bilkis Prodhan Juthi in London's Finchley area .

The meeting was monitored by Bangladesh intelligence and Indian intelligence monitored a call from Zakaria to a top official in the ISI Operations directorate which suggested finalisation of a plan to create large scale disorder in Bangladesh soon.

Gulzar also called the ISI directorate to report their travel plans.

Bangladesh intelligence agencies have better human assets in the diaspora while Indian intelligence has superb TECHINT and SIGINT capabilities.

Indian and Bangladesh intelligence had earlier intercepted communications between Brigadier 'Ashfaq' and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) military wing chief Hafiz Tohar , wherein Ashfaq asked Tohar to mount multiple attacks on Burmese security forces just after former UN secretary general Kofi Annan had presented the Rakhine Commission report to Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar president Htin Kyaw on 24th August.

Tohar's guerrillas backed by armed Rohingya villagers attacked 30 police stations and one army base on 24th August midnight.

Myanmar news agency Mizzima in an exclusive report detailed the content of the two calls from 'Ashfaq' to Tohar and one from ISIS spokesman 'Al Amin' to Tohar on 23-24 August.

These attacks torpedoed the peace process Suu Kyi had wished to start in Rakhine after she promised to implement the Rakhine Commission report.

Bangladesh intelligence suspects that the ISI had a grand plan finalised after their officials met Khaleda and Tareque in which the Bangladesh-Myanmar border region would be disturbed and PM Hasina assassinated in one stroke.

They say a red alert has been issued in the country to guard against possible Pakistan-BNP triggered communal violence originating in the Rohingya refugee zone in south-east Bangladesh but that could soon spread during the forthcoming Durga Puja .

This is said to be the 11th assassination attempt on PM Hasina since she took charge in Jan 2009.

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