Pompeo’s ‘terror hub’ remarks upset Bangladesh

Pompeo’s ‘terror hub’ remarks upset Bangladesh
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 12, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Pompeo’s ‘terror hub’ remarks upset Bangladesh

Pompeo’s ‘terror hub’ remarks upset Bangladesh
  • Dhaka says there is no evidence of any presence of Al-Qaeda in Bangladesh
  • Bangladeshi experts believe Pompeo’s remarks are unlikely to affect US-Bangladeshi ties

DHAKA: Bangladesh has criticized remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeling the country as a place where “Al-Qaeda cells have carried out attacks.”
In comments published on the State Department website on Tuesday, Pompeo listed several countries, including Bangladesh, as terror hubs.

The claim brought a stinging rebuke from Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry, which described the comments as “irresponsible” and “unfounded.”

“Mr. Pompeo mentioned Bangladesh as a place where the terrorist group Al-Qaeda carried out attacks, falsely suggesting similar attacks may happen in the future. Such irresponsible comments by a senior leader are very unfortunate and unacceptable,” the ministry said in a statement.

It also denied any Al-Qaeda presence in the country.

“Bangladesh strongly rejects these kinds of baseless remarks and falsification,” the ministry said, as it highlighted Dhaka’s commitment to counterterrorism.

“The country has become a party to all 14 international counterterrorism conventions and is actively involved with international ‘preventive’ initiatives to combat terrorism,” the statement read.

“If any such claim could be substantiated with evidence, the government of Bangladesh would be happy to take the necessary measures against such activities. However, if such a statement is made out of speculation, Bangladesh considers it very unfortunate, especially in the context of the ever-growing bilateral ties between the two friendly countries based on shared values, peace and common goals.”

Pompeo’s remarks also baffled Bangladeshi foreign affairs and security experts.

“I can see no reason why he specifically mentioned Bangladesh in connection with Al-Qaeda,” Ambassador Touhid Hossain, a former foreign secretary, told Arab News.

“Al-Qaeda’s involvement was not proven in any previous incidents in Bangladesh.”

However, Pompeo’s comments are unlikely to damage US-Bangladeshi ties, he added.

Bangladesh and the US have a good bilateral relationship and this type of comment will have no impact on the relationship, Hossain said.

Humayun Kabir, a former Bangladeshi ambassador to the US, said that Pompeo might have been expressing a “personal opinion.”

“As a precaution, Bangladesh needs to find out the reason for the comment. What prompted Pompeo to comment? Why did he mention Bangladesh? We should find the answers,” Kabir told Arab News.

Security analyst Air Cdre (rtd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury rejected the suggestion of an Al-Qaeda presence in Bangladesh.

“Every country has some security threat. But we don’t have any special threat regarding Al-Qaeda at this moment,” he said. “To me, Pompeo’s comment on Bangladesh is something like a drowning man clutching at a straw.”

Prof. Amena Mohsin, of the University of Dhaka’s international relations department, said that Pompeo is using Bangladesh as a “soft target” to divert attention from the “domestic security threats” facing the US.

With Washington preparing for a new administration, the remarks are unlikely to have any impact on US-Bangladeshi ties, she added.

Mohsin told Arab News that Bangladesh has good global counterterrorism indicators and should not be “labeled in connection with any terrorist organization.”

“Bangladesh has secured a very good position on the Global Terrorism Index, even better than neighboring India and Pakistan,” she said.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 46 min 5 sec ago

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”