Violent attacks on secular society by Islamic extremists in Bangladesh rarely get much attention in the West, even though the leader of ISIS in Bangladesh until he was killed in an August 2016 raid was Canadian.
The man arrested for Monday’s Port Authority Bus Terminal bombing, Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi legal permanent resident, moved to the United States in 2011. He had no criminal record in Bangladesh, authorities said, and last visited his home country in September.
Ullah reportedly told authorities he had been radicalized online. The October 2016 issue of ISIS’ Rumiyah magazine featured bios of the Bangladesh branch jihadists who waged a brutal assault on a trendy cafe in Dhaka in July 2016.
Abinta Kabir, a college student from Miami who was visiting family and friends in Dhaka, was among the 22 patrons tortured and killed in the cafe. Those who could recite the Quran were spared by the terrorists.
The mastermind behind the attack, Tamim Chowdhury, was listed as the author of the ISIS article lauding the Bangladeshi terrorists.
Chowdhury was remembered as a star student at his high school in Windsor, Ontario, where he competed on the track-and-field team. He graduated with honors from the University of Windsor in 2011 with a chemistry degree. He is believed to have been in a study group with others who went on to become jihadists, and appeared to have been fully radicalized by a year out of college.
By spring 2016, ISIS was calling Chowdhury their emir in Bangladesh.
The Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka was targeted on July 1, 2016, as “a sinister place where the Crusaders would gather to drink alcohol and commit vices throughout the night, feeling secure from the wrath of Allah that was awaiting them,” Chowdhury wrote.
“The mujahidin will continue discovering ‘security gaps and holes’ and lay in ambush for the Crusaders wherever they can be found,” he added. “The mujahidin will target expats, tourists, diplomats, garment buyers, missionaries, sports teams, and anyone else from the Crusader citizens to be found in Bengal until the land is purified from the Crusaders and all other kuffar [disbelievers] and the law of Allah is established in the land.”
Chowdhury added that “whoever from the Crusaders is deluded enough to feel secure by the false promises of safety given to them … will soon pay a heavy price.”
ISIS has been engaged in a turf war of sorts with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. In February 2015, Bangladeshi-American secularist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by AQIS on a Dhaka street. Roy was a U.S. citizen who lived in Atlanta and was in Bangladesh for a month. His wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonna, was with him at the time of the attack and was severely wounded, with one of her fingers severed by the pair of machete-wielding attackers.
In April 2016, Xulhaz Mannan, 35, who previously worked for the U.S. Embassy as a protocol officer and also founded the country’s only LGBT magazine, and Mahbub Tonoy, 25, a magazine contributor, were killed by machetes when AQIS attackers posing as delivery couriers gained entry to Mannan’s building.
This June, AQIS issued a “Code of Conduct” that said attacking Americans was a “foremost priority,” as America is “the central enemy standing against Islamic and jihadi awakening.”