- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

FBI and Bangladesh

What began last week as a routine column item about the visit of a top official from Bangladesh ended up as a major news story in that South Asian nation.

Embassy Row reported that the FBI promised to open an office in Bangladesh to help the government investigate the January killing of a former finance minister and attributed the information to an official at the Bangladeshi Embassy.

However, as of yesterday, the State Department, FBI and the government of Bangladesh were still discussing how U.S. law enforcement officials can assist in the investigation.

Since the item appeared a week ago, Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury denounced the original report as “bogus and baseless,” although both governments were clearly engaged in negotiations about the FBI’s participation. U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas tried to clarify matters last week by repeating that no decision had yet been made.

Bangladeshi reporters appeared to be rushing to confirm the mistaken report.

Bangladesh first asked for help shortly after the Jan. 27 grenade attack that killed five persons at an opposition political rally, including former Finance Minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria.

On Feb. 7, Mr. Thomas met with Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia and discussed how the FBI could help. Later that week, an FBI agent met in the capital, Dhaka, with government officials, according to Bangladeshi news reports.

Opposition politicians from the Awami League have also called for FBI help and suggested that the government had covered up previous investigations into political violence.

The United States wants to make sure the FBI would have full access to all evidence and witnesses before committing to an investigation.

The FBI has offices in American embassies in 52 countries, including India and Pakistan.

Embassy Row’s first report followed a visit to Washington by Reaz Rahman, foreign-policy adviser to Mrs. Khaleda Zia. He met with Christina Rocca, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs.

Skinhead attack

A black American diplomat yesterday said he was severely beaten by a white thugs in the Ukrainian capital in an unusual racial attack in a country still celebrating its newly won democratic freedoms.

Robert Simmons, who serves with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Uzbekistan, said the attack occurred Saturday night, as he was walking along a street with friends during a visit to Kiev. He told the Associated Press that he was beaten by more than a dozen men who had shaved heads and wore combat boots.

“I was attacked because I am African American. They did not touch my friends who were there with me, but were not black,” he told an AP reporter in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.

“They beat me in turns. It looked like training for them.”

Police arrived after the attack by the skinheads, and the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said it will insist that the Ukrainian authorities find the assailants.

A spokeswoman for the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington said such attacks are rare.

“It is not common in Ukraine. We have a very friendly atmosphere for all foreign nationals,” said Iryna Bezverkha.

Ukrainians are working hard to improve their country’s government and human rights record after the December pro-democracy protests led to the election of reformist President Viktor Yushchenko.

In November, the U.S. Embassy warned of “racially motivated incidents against non-Caucasian foreigners, including American citizens of African and Asian descent.”

The embassy also said that blacks and Asians “may be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials.”

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

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