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Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Dhaka protests 'al-Qaeda claims'
Islamists demonstrate in Dhaka
Coalition members were accused of 'links with terrorists'
The government of Bangladesh has strongly denied a report in the American magazine Time which alleges that the country is a safe haven for Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters.

The report says that Bangladesh may become a dangerous new front in America's war against terror and that militant Islamic groups may be using the country to hide arms and ammunition.


We're not saying the government is linked. We're saying the government simply isn't in control and al-Qaeda and Taleban are taking advantage of that

Alex Perry, South Asia Bureau Chief, Time magazine
The Bangladesh Foreign Ministry has denounced the report as a sinister attempt to besmirch the country's secular and tolerant reputation.

They are especially upset over allegations that Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has been hiding in the country for many months.

The article in the magazine cites an unnamed foreign embassy in Dhaka as the source of this information.

Coalition criticised

A flurry of outraged government ministers and officials have wasted no time in denouncing the Time report.

Dhaka demonstrators burn Bush effigy
Bangladesh: described as a 'hot-bed of terrorism'

The magazine says that nearly 150 members of Taleban and al-Qaeda fled Afghanistan and arrived by ship in Bangladesh last December.

Time magazine's south Asia bureau chief, Alex Perry defended his decision to publish the story and told the BBC's World Today programme: "We're not saying the government is linked. We're saying the government simply isn't in control and al-Qaeda and Taleban are taking advantage of that."

But the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, said on the World Today that there was absolutely no evidence to support such malicious reports.

Ministers are equally angered over Time's allegations that two Islamic parties within the governing coalition have a history of links to terror groups.

That has been strenuously denied, as have claims that there are around 30 madrassas or Islamic religious schools which shelter al- Qaeda militants.

Rare unity

This is the second time within a year that a leading news magazine has accused Bangladesh of being a hot-bed of international terrorism.

In April, the Far Eastern Economic Review infuriated the government by warning its readers to "beware Bangladesh".

On that occasion both the government and the opposition showed a rare display of unity to condemn the magazine, which has been banned in the country.

It is not clear whether similar unity will be shown in relation to the Time allegations.

The main opposition Awami League has long accused the two Islamic parties within the ruling coalition of having sympathy for the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

See also:

25 Sep 02 | South Asia
27 Aug 02 | South Asia
05 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Apr 02 | Media reports
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
03 Oct 01 | South Asia
16 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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