- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bangladesh’s ‘shock’

The Bangladesh ambassador recalled the horror of a nationwide coordinated terrorist attack in August that shook the South Asian nation into realizing it no longer was immune from the Islamic extremism that is sweeping much of the world.

“On Aug. 17, 2005, the country was hit with a staggering blow — the near-simultaneous explosion of about 500 bombs in hundreds of towns and cities across the nation,” Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury said in a recent speech at the National Press Club.

“It was a dramatic signal of the power of the militants, showing their resources and organizational skills were a serious threat to Bangladesh’s democracy.”

Mr. Chowdhury said suicide bombers began striking in November and December.

“The whole country was in shock, as we have never thought of ever experiencing the kind of militancy that we have had in the last few months of 2005,” he said.

The al Qaeda-linked Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami took responsibility, and the government has arrested more than 800 suspects in the attacks.

In his speech earlier this month, Mr. Chowdhury noted that Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia denounced the attacks and “made a clarion call to the nation that there is no place in Bangladesh for any militancy in the name of religion.”

The ambassador explained that his country, which is predominantly Muslim, has prided itself as a religiously tolerant nation that rejected Islamic extremism. He also cited statistics that show Bangladesh is improving its economy, expanding the health of its 144 million people crowded into a nation the size of Wisconsin.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tomorrow

• Muhammed Abdul Ghaffar, minister of information and minister of state for foreign affairs of Bahrain, who addresses the Middle East Institute.

• Saifuddin Bantasyam of the University of Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, director of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Sri Lanka; and Deepak Thapa, director of the Social Science Baha in Nepal. They address the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on conflicts in Asia.

• Mirsad Kebo, minister for human rights and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina, who addresses the U.S. Institute of Peace.

• Jaroslav Romanchuk, deputy chairman of the United Civic Party of Belarus, who discusses political repression in his country in a briefing at the Cato Institute.

Wednesday

• Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations. He addresses the annual meeting of the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce on Thursday and meets President Bush on Friday. Mr. Aliyev is accompanied by Heydar Babayev, minister of economic development; Ali Abbasov, minister of information technology and communications; Abulfaz Garayev, minister of tourism and culture; Samir Sharifov, executive director of the State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan; and Jahangir Hajiyev, chairman of the International Bank of Azerbaijan.

• Oksana Chelysheva, deputy director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society and a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s record on human rights.

• David Marples of the University of Alberta and Alla Yaroshinskaya of the Center for Ecological Study and Education in Moscow, who address the Keenan Institute to mark the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

• Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, who lectures at Catholic University on “The U.N. and Its Role in Making the 21st Century an Era of Peace and Progress.”

• Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada, who speaks on “Challenges Facing the Caribbean and Prospects for the Future” at American University.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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