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Govt looks into al-Qaeda video authenticity

Diplomatic Correspondent

The government is investigating the authenticity of the audiovisual message purported to be from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri that called on the Muslims in Bangladesh to ‘wage war to protect Islam’.
The message titled ‘Bangladesh: Massacre Behind a Wall of Silence’ was posted online on January 14 and published in media on February 15.
‘We do not know the authenticity of this message. We will know about it in a day or two,’ state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam told reporters at his ministry on Sunday.
He said Bangladesh would not tolerate any such threat and was capable of handling it.
In reply to a question, Shahriar said there was no al- Qaeda network in Bangladesh. He claimed that the Awami League government had destroyed all terrorist networks created during the BNP-Jamaat rule.
State minister for home Asaduzzaman Khan, however, told reporters, ‘We have threats of militancy. The
al- Qaeda is not a new phenomenon… We are looking into if the al-Qaeda’s reported threat to Bangladesh is authentic.’
Asaduzzaman asserted that the government was confident enough to face any such threats since the country’s people did not like al-Qaeda or any militancy unlike the people of those countries where the terrorist networks were operating with the support of the local people.
He said that the law enforcement agencies here were trained and had exchanged experiences on counterterrorism in the US and UK to fight terrorism. 
When comments of the US embassy were sought about the reported video message of the al-Qaeda chief, a spokeswoman told New Age that they were aware of the video.
The spokeswoman said the United States rejected al- Qaeda and the use of violence for political purposes. ‘Moreover, we reject Zawahiri’s characterisation of Bangladesh, which is a moderate, tolerant Muslim society that rejects the kind of extremism espouses by al-Qaeda.’
According to Bdnews24.com, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in the clip interpreted the Bengalis’ struggle for freedom from Pakistan in a way that was similar to the one offered by the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Zawahiri in the 28 minutes and 58 seconds clip can be heard charging the government with killing ‘thousands of people’ during the crackdown on Hefazat-e-Islam’s rally in Dhaka on May 5.
Zawahiri derides the Bangladesh government for being anti-Islam and secular.
He claimed that ‘a massacre of Muslims is being carried out these days’ and ‘the western media is colluding with the killers to belittle its significance and hide the facts’.
‘This is the bloodbath taking place in Bangladesh, without the Muslims paying least attention to it,’ Zawahiri claimed.
Commenting on the video, Shahriar Alam said that the BNP-Jamaat had connection with the international terrorist network and if the authenticity of this video message was established, their allegation against BNP-Jamaat would also prove true.
Asked how he could find a link between the BNP-Jamaat and the al-Qaeda chief’s reported audio message, the state minister said Zawahiri in the message insinuated the country’s liberation war as Jamaat opposed it in 1971. Likewise the message raised allegation against the crackdown on Hefazat’s May 5 rally the way BNP-Jamaat did. So, one can draw obvious conclusion about the BNP-Jamaat’s link with the video message.
He said such video was designed to undermine the image of Bangladesh and create instability in the country through terrorist acts locally.
Asked when the government came to know about the video message since it was posted online on January 14, Shahriar said they came to know about it after it was published in the media.
Asked whether the government had sought cooperation from the US or UK to know about the origin of the video and its authenticity since Bangladesh had cooperation in counterterrorism with those countries, Shahriar said they had existing mechanism to know about it.
He said foreign secretary Shahidul Haque was leading a delegation to the second steering committee meeting of the Global Fund for Community Engagement and Resilience to be held in Washington on February 20. The meeting would discuss Bangladesh’s counterterrorism capability and required fund to enhance the capability.

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