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Terror in Gulshan-- the inevitable happens

---Ziauddin Choudhury
After months, probably years of denial and self-deception about existence of militant radicals tied to
foreign groups our government woke up to the reality that everybody had been warning us about all
along. The militants raid and hostage taking with two known deaths (and perhaps many more) in the
Gulshan caf may be unprecedented in Bangladesh history, but in the annals of recent terror history,
this is just one more incident. Could this horror have been avoided? Perhaps yes, perhaps not. What is
undeniable, however, is that this is a terror act that was waiting in the wings for a long time, and it
finally happened. Sad that it took two young police officers lives and made victims of innocent foreign
citizens many of whom were working in Dhaka for a living.
The bloody drama of Gulshan caf is still unfolding as I write this piece. The number of deaths is not fully
known, but at least two dozen lives caught in that trap are in great danger . We hope fervently that
somehow a total blowout will be averted, but knowing that the militants who are occupying the caf
have yet to make any statement regarding their objectives, there are only speculations about the
outcome none of which is pretty. Various claims have been made regarding the affiliation or
sponsorship of these terrorists, ranging from the Islamic State to Al-Qaeda to local home grown groups-the usual suspects. Foreign media have in the meanwhile made Dhaka a centerpiece of the latest terror
attacks, and are attributing the attack to either of the two infamous international militant groups.
Additionally, the foreign media are also pointing out our governments failure to hark to the signals that
the country had been receiving from the wave of killing of individuals, foreigners, bloggers, and religious
minorities. In fact, this incident has stirred up the critics to come out in full force to blame the
government for the failure to reign in budding militants in the country.
We do not know actually who the sponsors are, what the motive of attack is, and least of all who the
attackers are. Are they all our own nationals or do they have some foreign collaborators? Coming in the
wake of Istanbul attack, we cannot fully rule out the presence of foreign elements among these
attackers.
It will not take time for this horrific incident to come to a closure, perhaps before the time this article
goes in print. But what is certain to happen is that this will bring in its wake more deaths, and turn the
city to a gloomy and melancholy place at a time when everyone is about to celebrate the end of a holy
month with festivity. The blood that has already been shed by our two brave police officers who were
killed and dozens wounded has already cast a pall of gloom. This will be only darkened further with
losses yet to come.
We will probably be splitting hair for days to come figuring out how it happened, and there will be more
blame games going round. But if there is one lesson to be learnt from this tragedy is that surveillance
alone cannot stop such terror acts. We may have hundreds of guards and policemen keeping eyes on a
people trying to prevent the rogues from attacking. But it takes only one determined group of people to
outwit and outsmart these guards through their ability to network and amass enough fire power to
launch such blitz.

Terror acts of the kind that just happened do not happen all of a sudden. These take days and months of
planning, preparation and assembly. At this time I do not know if there is foreign involvement at all, and
I will not rule it completely. But I have written before and I reiterate it now that radical extremism of the
kind that is now on display globally does not crop up suddenly in a country without a nexus of ideas that
run across countries. The terrorists who took over the Gulshan caf, and carried out their nefarious acts
could be all our own nationals, but they drew their inspiration from a bigger cadre of militants who are
pursuing a mission that threatens all countries of the world, irrespective of cast, creed, or religious
belief.
It is sad that our government despite its commitment to fight and contain global terrorism, failed to
recognize the enemy within. By putting blames on opposition parties and their putative agenda to
embarrass the government in the past, we have allowed our law enforcing agencies to lose their focus
on the real danger that was lurking the country and was getting bolder by day. There have been many
evidences of the growth and strength of these elements in the past, but for strange reasons our
authorities ignored them.
The cost of political blame game is heavy as we can see from this ongoing incident. Neither rhetoric nor
political blame game can replace real action to contain the cancer of radical militancy. I am not
suggesting that terrorism of the kind that is threatening the world today can be prevented easily, but at
least our energy can be well spent, resources better used to fight the cancer of militancy if our
politicians agree to put aside their differences and fight jointly.
As of this time, the crisis in Gulshan is not over. I am praying and hoping that it comes to a closure
without any more bloodshed. But what I am hoping most is that there will be transparency in police
action, and we will get to know who the perpetrators were. Let there be no murkiness to explain this to
the nation. We deserve it.