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ED registers criminal case against Zakir Naik, his foundation for money laundering

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Enforcement Directorate has registered a criminal case against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and his organisation IRF under money laundering laws.Officials said the agency’s zonal office in Mumbai has registered an FIR, called Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in ED’s parlance, against Naik and others after taking cognisance of a similar complaint booked by the NIA under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against them.The ED, they said, will specifically look into the charges of alleged illegal funds laundered by the accused and the proceeds of crime in its probe.The agency has already scanned some banking transaction documents and other details against Naik and IRF and is soon expected to issue summons to take the probe forward.The National Investigation Agency had last month registered a case against 51-year-old Naik under anti-terror laws for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and race.After registering the case against Naik, IRF and others, NIA along with Mumbai police had carried out searches at 10 places in the megapolis, including residential premises of some of the office bearers of the foundation, which was earlier put on restricted list by the Union Home Ministry for receiving funds from abroad.Naik, who has been staying in Saudi Arabia to evade arrest after his name surfaced during a probe into the Bangladesh terror strike earlier this year, has been booked along with unnamed IRF officials under section 153-A of IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) beside various sections of UAPA.The charges, in the FIR registered by the NIA’s branch in Mumbai, were also slapped under sections 10 (being member of an unlawful organisation), 13 (punishment for being member of illegal organisation) and 18 of UAPA (punishment for being involved in a conspiracy for committing any terror act).IRF came under the scanner of security agencies after one of the terrorists involved in the Dhaka cafe attack had allegedly posted on social media that they had been inspired by Naik’s speeches. Some of the youths from Mumbai suburbs, who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year, were also allegedly inspired by the preacher. Naik’s speeches are banned in the UK, Canada and Malaysia.The Home Ministry has alleged that the NGO had “dubious” links to Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism.According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, had allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda.Maharashtra Police has also registered criminal cases against Naik for his alleged involvement in radicalising Muslim youth and luring them into terror activities. Naik was alleged to have transferred IRF’s funds received from abroad to Peace TV for making “objectionable” programmes.

Kolkata: FBI team arrives to interrogate Islamic State operative Musa

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A seven-member team of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, have arrived in West Bengal to interrogate ISIS operative Musa. The team arrived at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) office in Kolkata on Thursday afternoon. 25-year-old Mohammad Masiuddin alias Musa was arrested from Burdwan railway station by the CID on July 4 on charges of radicalising youths to join ISIS. Later, the probe was taken over by the NIA and the agency is currently probing his links to Jamaat-Ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and also the Dhaka attacks. While the Superintendent of Police of the zonal unit of NIA in Kolkata, Soumitra Dhar refused to divulge the reason of interrogation, sources in the NIA reveal that Musa had agreed to take on an assignment from a JMB leader Abu Suleiman to target foreigners and US nationals in India and behead them.In March 2015, Musa had met Abu Suleiman in West Bengal during his sister’s wedding. Musa had been in touch with Suleiman over Facebook, but Suleiman had expressed his wish to meet Musa in person. Later, Musa invited him to attend his sister’s wedding, held in Bengal. Suleiman is now on the run and both – the Indian and Bangladeshi governments are looking for him.Musa came under the scanner of CID and NIA after his e-mails and calls were traced to Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Syria. Officials in the investigating agency highlight that he had been touch with several ISIS operatives in Syria through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Initial investigations revealed that he had also been in touch with several JMB operatives in Bangladesh.Earlier, in the month of August, a three-member-team of Bangladesh’s security intelligence department had also come to Kolkata to interrogate Musa.

Manohar Parrikar discusses military, security ties with Bangladesh

Dhaka: India and Bangladesh on Wednesday discussed military and security cooperation as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s security adviser to strengthen bilateral strategic ties.

Parrikar, the first Indian defence minister to visit Bangladesh in the last 45 years, held a meeting with Hasina’s security adviser Major General (Retd) Tariq Ahmed.

No official statement was issued after the meeting but officials familiar with the talks said they discussed security cooperation between the two countries.

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTIA file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

A file photo of Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Parrikar, who arrived here Wednesday on a two-day visit leading an 11-member high-powered delegation, will meet the top civil and military leadership to strengthen defence ties between the two countries.

Parrikar, who is accompanied by the Vice Chiefs of the Army and Air Force, Deputy Chief of Navy besides Coast Guard chief, will meet President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who holds the defence portfolio in the cabinet.

The vice chiefs of India’s army, navy and air force, held talks with Bangladesh’s three services’ chiefs at their office in Dhaka cantonment, a defence ministry official said.

“During the meetings, they discussed issues related to the existing good relations and cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries,” an official statement said.

Top Defence Ministry officials in New Delhi had said the focus of Parrikar’s trip was to deepen security ties and firm up a defence cooperation agreement that is likely to be signed when Hasina visits India next month.

Parrikar is scheduled to visit Bangladesh Military Academy (BMA) near the southeastern port city of Chittagong on Fr iday.

Alongside India, Bangladesh has strong defence cooperation with China especially in military hardware.

Bangladesh Navy this month acquired its first submarines from China, as Dhaka sought to boost its naval power in the resource-rich Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Muhammad Farid Habib during his recent visit to India had said Dhaka wants to work with the Indian Navy as there are many “non-traditional threats” in sea, a reference to piracy, floating armouries among others.

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 18:58 IST

Moment they pick up violence, they lose my support: Zakir Naik on his ‘anti-social’ fans

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik on Sunday claimed that there has been no misuse of funds by his banned NGO and rejected all allegations of involvement in terror-related activities.Remaining non-committal on returning to India, where he has been booked for hate speech and under anti-terror law UAPA, the 51-year-old televangelist, who is currently abroad, said he has repeatedly offered his cooperation to NIA. Facing heat over charge of inspiring some of the Dhaka attackers through his speeches, he said the moment someone resorts to violence, he ceases to be Islamic and loses his support. “It is wrong to imply that a few miscreants who joined terror groups were influenced by me. So if I was really spreading terror, wouldn’t I have made a few lakh terrorists by now? Not just a handful.”In a fan following of millions, there may be a handful of anti-social elements who will go astray and take up violence. But they are surely not following what I’ve told them. The moment they pick up senseless violence, they cease to be Islamic and they surely lose my support,” Naik told PTI in an e-mail interview. Asked about the legal steps he would take to challenge the ban on his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), he said his legal teams in Mumbai and Delhi were looking into the issue and would move the Court soon.The Centre recently banned the IRF for five years and declared it as an unlawful association. Nai said the ban on IRF was politically motivated. On allegations of money laundering by IRF in the funds received from abroad, he said the Rs 47 crore in question came from his personal account in Dubai to his personal account in Mumbai in the last six plus years. “It was duly declared by me in the returns and used for lawful activities, including giving gifts and loans to my family members. I don’t know where is the problem in that.”IRF received about Rs 14 crore in the FCRA account over the past 15 years. Of this, about Rs 4 crore was from NRIs living abroad. Only about Rs 10 crore was received from foreign donors in the last about 15 years. All of this was duly declared to the MHA, including the amounts, the names and the addresses of the donors. So, where is the question of money laundering?” Naik asked.Asked why was he not returning to India, Naik said he has repeatedly offered his co-operation to government agencies in their investigations but till date, no agency bothered to contact him, ask him questions, or send him any notice.

Zakir Naik in letter says IRF ban attack on Muslims and to divert attention from note ban; threatens legal action

Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, whose NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was banned by the Narendra Modi-government for five years, has alleged that the ban was timed to the demonetisation announcement to divert media attention. In an open letter released on Friday, Naik termed the ban on IRF as an attack against ‘Muslims’ and has threatened to take legal action against the Modi-government against the move. Naik’s NGO was banned last week for allegedly aiding terror activities. This is the second open letter Naik is writing ever since Naik got into trouble and faced a series of investigations post the Dhaka attacks.

In the letter “to India”, Naik yet again sought to play the ‘muslim card’ saying IRF and himself were “set up for a ban.” Not very different from his first letter, Naik says the ban imposed on IRF is communal in nature. The radical preacher severely criticised the Modi government for banning the organisation and dubbed it a knee-jerk reaction.

“Like the demonetization fiasco, the Modi government’s IRF ban and its modus operandi has been distraught with senseless decisions and knee jerk actions. After having said that the Islamic International School will not be affected, the government goes ahead and freezes the School’s bank account. How will a school survive without its day-to-day expenses being met? We’re talking about the future of hundreds of school children here.”

Naik and IRF came under the government’s scanner after reports emerged that some of the terrorists behind the Dhaka restaurant attack were inspired by his speeches. Naik, in his letter, claims that the Modi government has absolutely no grounds for the banning. Naik has been banned by a few other countries including United Kingdom and Canada for his speeches that advocates the supremacy of Islam over other religions.

Zakir Naik. Reuters

Zakir Naik. Reuters

In his letter, Naik alleges that Modi-government had decided to ban IRF even before investigators submitted the reports on IRF:

“Before investigations were done, even before reports submitted, the ban was already decided. IRF was to be banned. Whether it was owing to my religion or some other reason, does not matter.”

Investigators had found evidence for IRF’s alleged links to terror activties. Recently,  National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that IRF  funded at least 300 people, some of whom travelled to the Islamic State areas of Syria and Iraq.

This came into light after the NIA carried out searches for three days at 20 premises during which records related to bank accounts and other financial activities linked with Naik and IRF were seized. NIA also plan to prepare a list of IRF members based abroad to track the money trail, reported DNA.

In addition to it, NIA has handed over a list of over 12 people, including Naik, his family members, close friends and organisations, to all 72 scheduled commercial banks to check whether these people had any account in these financial institutions. According to the above report which has quoted official sources,  NIA has sent notices to three private banks to freeze the accounts of Naik and others, which were found to be in operation during the three-day search by it that ended last night, till further orders. In both the letters, NIA has cited Section 43 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for executing such action.

Further in his letter, Naik claims that this “unique ban” was imposed without anyone questioning him.  Since the Dhaka attacks, investigating agencies  have been scrutinising Naik’s speeches.Like this article in Firstpost argues, preachers like Zakir Naik “…typically play mind games with the enchanted listeners, often selectively quoting (rather twisting) the lines from sacred scriptures, to impose the ultimate idea of religious supremacy in the audience’s psyche and ultimately establish why one should embrace that particular religion. This is arguably the trade technique of televangelists…”

Naik has defended himself claiming that many times that his speeches have always dealt with communal harmony, and he has never supported terrorism.  Naik claims himself as an expert on comparative religion and often quotes lines from religious texts in his speeches.

Further in his letter, Naik reiterates that he is “one of the few” who have openly spoken against state-sponsored violence and terrorism. Naik’s arguments, “rather ignorance”, about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but it is clear why it would convince those who believe in a religion’s supremacy over others. In a February 2012 video (removed from YouTube), addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to ‘fight for Islam’ and ‘disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator’. Saying “Vande Mataram,” Naik said, “is not desirable not just Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism,” Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land.”

The hypocrisy of Naik is glaring in the end of the letter, where the preacher, who throughout blamed the government for being communal, plays the communal card himself.

“Don’t such statements and many more by fanatics like Sadhvi Prachi and Yogi Adityanath require them to be arrested and tried under UAPA? Leave aside legal action, the government has neither condemned their actions nor reprimanded them. Is this draconian law mainly meant for Muslims? Muslims who’ve been practicing and propagating their religion peacefully and well within the constitutional framework? Does the UAPA now exist mainly to silence minority groups? I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters in India to rely on Allah alone, unafraid of this vicious campaign against them. Allah says, ‘And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all.’ (Al-Qur’an 3:120)”

You can read his full letter here:

Dr. Zakir Naik s Second Letter to India.pdf-page-001


Dr. Zakir Naik s Second Letter to India.pdf-page-002
Dr. Zakir Naik s Second Letter to India.pdf-page-003

Naik also threatens the government of legal action and says that the government is misusing their authority on people and “It needs to change for the future of every one of us.” Naik’s letter is explosive in the way it targets “Indian Muslims” as the preacher goes on to say that the Modi government will fail in its plans and adds that even though the government of India is misusing law to “scare the Indian Muslims”, he will strive harder to spread the message peace, “till my last breath.”

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 18:50 IST

Dhaka cafe attack: 3 terrorists involved were admirers of Zakir Naik, says govt

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Three terrorists, involved in the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, were admirers of Zakir Naik, founder of Islamic Research Foundation, which was banned by the government, Rajya Sabha was informed today.”The three terrorists involved in the attack were reportedly admirers of Zakir Naik,” Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir said in a written reply. The Minister said as per the available information, although the mandate of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is educational and social, it is also involved in other activities. “Noticing certain violations of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, the IRF has been placed under the prior permission category”.The government on Tuesday decided to declare the IRF, an NGO promoted by the controversial Islamic preacher as an outlawed organisation under the anti-terror law for five years for its alleged terror activities. The decision has been taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Cabinet approved a proposal to declare IRF as an ‘unlawful association’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for five years.The move comes after investigation by the Home Ministry found that the NGO was allegedly having dubious links with Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, accused of propagating terrorism. According to the Home Ministry, Naik, who heads the IRF, has allegedly made many provocative speeches and engaged in terror propaganda. Naik came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher who is abroad, has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.

China to sign some $24 billion in loans to Bangladesh as Xi visits

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>China is set to sign off on loans worth over $24 billion to Bangladesh during President Xi Jinping’s visit on Friday, Dhaka’s biggest foreign credit line to date that will help it build power plants, a seaport and railways. Xi’s trip, the first by a Chinese president in 30 years, is aimed at boosting China’s involvement in infrastructure projects at a time when India is pushing investments of its own in Bangladesh, a country New Delhi considers its area of influence. Japan, helped by India, has also got involved in Bangladesh, offering finance at low interest rates to build a port and power complex, sharpening competition for influence in the country of 160 million people located on the Bay of Bengal. China plans to finance around 25 projects, including a 1,320 megawatt (MW) power plant, and is also keen to build a deep sea port, Bangladesh junior finance minister MA Mannan said. “Xi’s visit will set a new milestone. (A) record amount of loan agreements will be signed during the visit, roughly $24 billion,” he told Reuters. Among the proposed projects are highways and information technology development, he said. “Our infrastructure needs are big, so we need huge loans.”China’s Jiangsu Etern Co Ltd signed a deal worth $1.1 billion to strengthen the power grid network in Bangladesh, the company said on Thursday. Beijing is especially keen to revive a plan to build a deep sea port in Sonadia which has been on hold for years, officials said. Xi is visiting Bangladesh on his way to a BRICS summit of the world’s leading emerging economies in Goa, India. His trip comes at a time when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leading efforts to boost ties with neighbouring countries, from Sri Lanka to Nepal, by offering them a share of India’s fast-growing economy. Last year Modi announced a $2 billion credit line during a visit to Dhaka, but China looks set to go well beyond that. Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at Shanghai Institute for International Studies, said both India and China supported development in Bangladesh, and that it did not have to be one or the other. “I really don’t think there is a zero sum game going on in Bangladesh between China and India. Bangladesh welcomes both Chinese and Indian investment…” said Zhao. Bangladesh has backed Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative to boost trade and transport links across Asia and into Europe, seeing it as an opportunity to lift growth. India has reservations about the plan, amid worries that it is an attempt to build a vast zone of Chinese influence. Beijing had proposed an economic corridor linking Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and northern India, but New Delhi did not seem keen on the idea, Zhao said. “Bangladesh has an enormous need for investment, and I don’t think it’s going to become a site for strategic competition, a game between the great powers or a pawn,” he said.

Deadly Bangladesh blaze shows up safety gaps three years after factory collapse | Reuters

By Serajul Quadir and Ruma Paul
| DHAKA

DHAKA Bangladesh’s safety inspectors twice extended an operating licence at a food and cigarette packaging plant in the capital Dhaka without making physical checks.That breach of rules is now being investigated by the government after a fire at the Tampaco Foils factory killed at least 39 people last month.The cause of the September 10 blaze, the country’s worst industrial accident since the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy in which more than 1,100 mostly garment workers died, is unknown. The plant’s owner, a former member of parliament, has gone missing.Flammable materials stored on the factory floor, a gas leak, excessive use of gas and poorly positioned boilers are all being looked at as possible reasons.Syed Ahmed, head of the department charged with inspecting factories and commercial buildings, said his inspectors should have visited Tampaco before renewing its licence, but did not, partly because of a shortage of staff.”If we could have inspected the factory, then we may have noticed and could have taken action on those shortcomings, and this could have averted disaster,” Ahmed told Reuters.He said the department had launched an internal review to identify who was responsible for signing the documents.Interviews with Ahmed and more than 20 regulators, investigators, technicians and witnesses involved in the fire at the factory reveal a lack of oversight that the government is scrambling to fix.While inspections of plants making clothes for global brands have increased significantly since Rana Plaza – many carried out by or on behalf of Western companies – other sectors that also supply international firms have had less attention.”This disaster has opened our eyes to the fact that we must also focus on other factories,” Ahmed said.Mikail Shipar, secretary of the Labour and Employment Ministry, said the government was investigating why Tampaco’s licence was renewed without a visit. The operating licence is one of several required, but among the most important.”There will be a committee from this ministry and action will be taken if anyone is found guilty for this lack of oversight,” he told Reuters.Plans to expand Ahmed’s department of about 250 inspectors by nearly tenfold have picked up pace since the fire, Shipar added.The lack of resources is undermining safety for millions of Bangladeshi workers, as well as damaging the south Asian nation’s image among investors.The $28 billion garment industry is key, accounting for around 15 percent of the economy. More than four fifths of Bangladesh’s exports are to the clothing industry, making it the world’s second largest garment supplier after China.WESTERN COMPANY CHECKS
According to a senior inspection official, the licence at Tampaco, which supplies packaging to local firms and multinationals including British American Tobacco (BATS.L) and Nestle (NESN.S), was extended through 2015 and then again until the middle of 2017, both times with no visit.

When asked about the extension of the plant’s operating licence without inspections taking place, a British American Tobacco Bangladesh spokeswoman said the cigarette maker understood them to have been made by independent inspectors as stipulated by the government.”We understood, as part of our own review process, that all the necessary checks had been made,” she said in an emailed statement, adding that the company had reviewed Tampaco in 2012, 2014 and 2015, and had provided environment and health and safety training, including fire safety, in January, 2016.”At the time of the last review in October, 2015, British American Tobacco Bangladesh checked all required licences and they were found to be valid.”BAT Bangladesh also said it was bringing forward on-site reviews of all “priority suppliers” in Bangladesh.A Nestle spokeswoman said: “When more is known about the cause of this tragedy, we will work with the authorities and other stakeholders to determine how to avoid any such incidents in the future.”The company said the Tampaco plant had passed a fire safety and prevention audit by independent inspection company SGS in 2012, and Nestle, which conducts audits around every three years, was in the process of organizing the next one.BANGLADESH’S IMAGE PROBLEM
There are thousands of big factories and warehouses in Bangladesh, many of them making goods cheaply for multinational companies, with only a few hundred inspectors to check them.Improving safety is crucial to restoring the country’s image as a place to work and invest.

Beyond industrial safety, Islamist militants have increased attacks. In the worst incident, gunmen killed 22 people in a Dhaka cafe in July, most of them from abroad.”One of the risks for Bangladesh right now is that between the July terror attack, the legacy of Rana Plaza and now this (Tampaco fire), it begins to look like a non-desirable place to do business,” said Sarah Labowitz, co-head of NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights.”The government and industry really need to step up and respond.”Shipar said the government was preparing to beef up inspections in the non-garment sector.They would be concentrated in four industrial districts, three of them in or around Dhaka and one in the southeastern port city of Chittagong.”It is our estimate that roughly 4,000 factories will come under this project,” he said. “We cannot inspect all factories, and so we have to give priority to those factories that are prone to fires or explosions.”The problem is not only lack of staff.Coordination between inspection teams is problematic, and the labyrinthine licencing system can cause headaches for company bosses.”When we ask (for) documents or to implement recommendations … the management says they struggle with so many licences and do not understand which one should have priority,” said Abdus Sattar, who works in the factory inspection department.

OWNER GOES MISSING
The Tampaco factory is owned by Syed Mokbul Hussain, a former lawmaker.He told Reuters on the day of the blaze that Tampaco was “fully compliant”, but has not been contactable since to answer questions about the licencing process or other safety issues.Police said Hussain and nine top managers had gone into hiding since the fire.Habibur Rahman, a production officer of Tampaco, defended the company’s safety record.”Why would the owner ignore compliance issues after investing billions of taka?” he said.Factories are usually notified about inspections first, raising questions about their efficacy.One government inspector, who asked not to be named, told Reuters during a recent visit to a Dhaka plant that, if he arrived unannounced, more often than not he would be turned away.Promised reforms will come too late for the 39 people confirmed killed at Tampaco. Several people are missing and dozens more were injured.Abdul Momin, who survived the explosion and fire early that Saturday morning, was one of several witnesses who said they heard the hiss of gas before the blast rocked the building.”All of a sudden, I heard a blast,” said Mohammad Manowar Hossain, a long-time Tampaco worker, speaking from hospital recently where he was being treated for two broken legs.”I lost my senses. After I got my senses back, there were many injured workers lying beside me crying for help.”Ahmed, head of the inspection team, said Tampaco had been warned in 2014 about raw material storage and that it must ensure the safety of its gas riser – a piping component.It is not clear whether the recommendations were followed. (Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Martinne Geller in London; Writing by Euan Rocha; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

What’s Ganges barrage project and why Bangladesh wants India to be a stakeholder

Bangladesh is keen to have India as a “stakeholder” in the proposed USD 4 billion Ganges barrage project and a team from India’s water resources ministry will soon visit Dhaka to hold talks in this regard, a senior minister has said.

State Minister for Water Resources Nazrul Islam said two Chinese firms were keen to fully finance the project and even Japan was willing to fund at least USD 2 billion.

“But because the Ganges flows into Bangladesh from India, we take a long-term view of the project and our prime minister is keen to get India into it,” he told bdnews24.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on 06 June 2015. Image courtesy PIBPrime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on 06 June 2015. Image courtesy PIB

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in Dhaka on 06 June 2015. Image courtesy PIB

He said a team from India’s water resources ministry will soon visit Dhaka to hold discussions on the barrage project.

“The issue was raised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to Dhaka last year. He showed much interest and Indian officials later asked for the project details which we have provided,” Islam said.

He said funding was not a problem for the project.

“Two Chinese companies have offered full finance while the Japanese have said they can put in half the project cost and we can manage the rest, but it makes long-term sense to have India involved as the Ganges flow into Bangladesh from India,” Islam said.

The Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina also seems keen to have New Delhi on board. However, she is likely to convey her decision to her PM Narendra Modi when they meet in Goa on 16-17 October on the sidelines of Brics summit, reports The Economic Times.

High cost, phenomenal capacity

The Ganges barrage will be a 165-kilometre long reservoir running from Rajbari to Chapainawabganj districts, with a depth of 12.5 metres.

It will hold a phenomenal 2.9 billion cubic litres and cost Tk 314 billion (approximately USD 4 billion). The barrage will retain the water of the trans-boundary river Ganga, known as the Padma in Bangladesh, during the monsoon and feed small rivers during the lean season.

This will help Bangladesh flush the small rivers and reduce salinity, a major threat to public health and agriculture in the country’s southwest.

Islam sought to allay fears of flooding on the Indian side of the Ganges. “The project has provided for allocations for upgrading and raising embankments on the Indian side to avoid any flooding,” he said.

Salinity problem

Much of Bangladesh’s salinity problem seems to be linked to the Farakka barrage situated in West Bengal. After the construction of the barrage there was a drop in the river Padma, which resulted in increased soil salinity southwest of Bangladesh, affecting 6,200 hectares of farmland, reports The Third Pole.

The report states that after the signing of the Ganga Waters treaty between India and Bangladesh in 1996, Bangladesh has received water during the extreme dry season, but the damaged land couldn’t be undone.

Water expert Prof Ainun Nishat said the Ganges Barrage Project should be implemented as soon as possible to protect the Bangladesh’s southwestern region, including the Sundarbans, reports The Daily Star.

The proposed project has a reservoir to augment the flow of water and its equal distribution over the Ganges dependent area. The project will meet the demand for agriculture, fisheries, ecosystems and navigation, experts and officials told The Daily Star.

With inputs from agencies

Bangladesh acquits student suspected in July cafe attack | Reuters

Bangladesh acquits student suspected in July cafe attack | Reuters

Oct 2, 2016 23:28 IST

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DHAKA A man who was dining in a Dhaka cafe when it was attacked by Islamist militants and who was later detained as a suspect has been acquitted of terrorism charges and released on bail, police said on Sunday.Tahmid Hasib Khan, 22, was at the Holey Artisan Bakery on the evening of July 1 when it was stormed by militants, beginning a 12-hour siege in which 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, two police officers and six suspected attackers died.In video footage filmed by witnesses and militants, Khan appeared holding a pistol and talking to the hostage-takers, but police said forensic analysis had shown the Toronto University student had been forced to do so. Based on these findings and there being no witnesses or other evidence of Khan’s involvement in the attack, a court in Dhaka had acquitted him, Masudur Rahman, spokesman of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police told Reuters.

Khan is the second person to be released without charge in an investigation that has led to only seven arrests, leading to criticism of the police by some newspapers and social media.The cafe attack was the worst in a recent escalation of violence by Islamist militants in Bangladesh that has included a rise in killings of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million.

Although Al Qaeda and Islamic State have been making competing claims of responsibility, the government has dismissed suggestions that Islamic State has a presence in Bangladesh, even though ‘selfies’ of some of the attackers posing with an automatic rifle were posted on the jihadi group’s propaganda outlets during the siege.Khan’s case, and that of another man, Hasnat Karim, who has British and Bangladeshi dual citizenship, has also drawn criticism from human rights groups who say they were illegally detained and denied access to a lawyer.

Karim and Khan were among 32 survivors rescued by police and taken into custody for questioning. Karim, a 47-year-old engineer, was at the cafe with his family to celebrate his daughter’s 13th birthday. (Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

BSF submits proposal for fencing Indo-Bangladesh border on an urgent basis

Kolkata: Amid growing concerns over terrorists using the porous Indo-Bangla border, the BSF has submitted a detailed proposal to the West Bengal government about the amount of land needed for setting up fences in a highly sensitive 81.7 km area on an urgent basis.

The issue of erecting fences along the international Indo-Bangla border was in cold storage for last several years. It was taken up just months after the terror attack in Dhaka and various intelligence inputs about how the porous Indo- Bangla border is fast turning into a transit point for terrorists and cattle smugglers.

“The matter of identifying land and survey of land was held back since 2009. But recently the state government had sought detailed proposals from us regarding the amount of land that is required in the south Bengal frontier.

“We have placed a detailed report about the amount of land and alignment that is needed and other basics that is required by the BSF,” Sandeep Salunke, Inspector General BSF (South Bengal frontier) told PTI.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

According to Salunke, that the BSF had handed over a detailed report of land plots needed in North 24 Parganas, Nadia and Murshidabad district to fence 81.7 km without delay.

Bangladesh and West Bengal share about 2,216.7 km of border.

“Out of the 915 km of border in the South Bengal frontier only 371 km is fenced. So we have sent the proposal for setting up fences in 81.7 km at an urgent basis. These areas are highly sensitive. Fencing would be an added advantage in border patrolling,” a senior BSF official said.

According to state secretariat sources, the report was handed to the state chief secretary and home secretary and the process for the survey of the land has already started.

“Yes we had received a report from them. Now the state has land purchase committee, under the state owns land policy, which will look into it. The BSF will pay for the land and it will be registered under BSF only.

“The process of survey of that land and alignment has started on an war footing. The entire process will be completed very soon,” a senior official of the state home department told PTI on condition of anonymity.

According to BSF and state home department sources, 67.38 km in North 24 parganas, 7.99 km in Nadia and 6.41 km in Murshidabad district need immediate fencing as these areas are fast turning into safe heavens for JMB members and other anti-socials.

The North 24 Parganas district shares nearly 241 km of international border with Bangladesh. As per state police and BSF sources, till July more than 50 Bangladeshi nationals have been arrested for illegally crossing over.

According to state government sources, the deadlock over the land issue came after there was agreement with the Bengal government’s suggestion of direct land purchase by the BSF with help from the state administration.

Recently, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has given strict instructions to the police and district administration to stop cow smuggling across the international border.

According to BSF and state home department sources, the recent terror attack in Dhaka’s posh Gulshan area and recent arrest of Mohammed Musiruddin (25) that has exposed the presence of the terror group in the state, particularly in the districts bordering Bangladesh including Burdwan.

“After Burdwan blast it came into light how this porous border was used by the JMB terrorists to set up their base in the state. A proper border fencing would help in checking it,”
a senior state IB official said.

Burdwan district entered the terror map in October 2014 when two suspected JMB terrorists were killed while making improvised explosive devices at a rented house at Khagragarh. The JMB wants to established the Sharia rule by overthrowing the democratically-elected government in Bangladesh, the NIA had stated in its charge sheet.

Indian boy in Bangladesh: Sonu’s DNA matched with parents, MEA to bring him back

The External Affairs Ministry on Tuesday said that the DNA of couple claiming to be the parents of an Indian boy Sonu stranded in Bangladesh has been matched. The boy is now scheduled to come to Delhi on 30 June.External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj took to Twitter and said, “Sonu – who was kidnapped from Delhi was found in a shelter home in Bangladesh. We matched the DNA with his mother. The test is positive.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>She also added, “Indian High Commission in Dhaka has obtained Sonu’s custody. He will reach Delhi on 30th June.”The Indian boy from Jessore was found in Bangladesh, after he was said to have gone missing from Delhi in 2010.Swaraj had earlier tweeted saying, “We will match Sonu’s DNA with couple claiming to be his parents. In case DNA test is positive, we will bring Sonu to India without delay.”

Kashmiri girl detained at Delhi airport over ‘bomb’ scare: Omar Abdullah steps in

New Delhi: Return journey for a Kashmiri girl, a medical student in Bangladesh, turned horrible as she was detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Friday after security staff saw “carrying bomb” written on her check-in luggage.

The girl, a resident of Rajbagh in Srinagar city, was taken for questioning after the security staff at the airport informed the police. She was travelling from Dhaka to Delhi via Kolkata. Officials said the incident took place when the girl and her three friends, bound for Srinagar, landed at the airport from Dhaka via Kolkata about 11:00 am.

She was questioned while security agencies carried out background check in Bangladesh and Srinagar. The girl was released after police found that everything was in order, the officials said. The incident was flagged by former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who took to Twitter and sought help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh in this regard.

The Home Minister responded with:

Bilal Ahmad, the father of one of the girls, said that he attempted to seek the help of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti but was refused a meeting with her. “There were four girls who were returning from Bangladesh. They flew from Dhaka to Kolkata and then to Delhi. Their luggage was checked and cleared at all the airports,” Ahmad said in Srinagar.

“After they were detained, the airport authorities or the police did not inform their families. We fear for their safety. We have only talked to them once so far,” he said.

The three other girls decided to stay put with their friend and did not board the flight to Srinagar and waited till she was released. “Delhi Police released her after a few hours of questioning. However, between all this, the girls missed their connecting flight to Srinagar from Delhi and will now take a flight tomorrow,” the official said.

Activists say condition of Bangladeshi Hindus horrible; urge India to take up matter

In the wake of a series of attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, the minority community there wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government to take up the matter with Dhaka to ensure their safety and security.”The Hindu community, which is the biggest minority community in Bangladesh, is vulnerable in Bangladesh. Fundamentalist and Jamat forces are trying to wipe out Hindus from Bangladesh. We feel that India being a Hindu majority country, should do something. We have high hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He should act and take up the matter with Bangladeshi government and ensure the safety and security of Hindus,” Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council and noted Human Rights activist, told PTI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A 60-year-old Hindu ashram worker, Nityaranjan Pandey, was hacked to death on June 10 by suspected Islamists, becoming the fourth person from the minority community to be killed in a series of brutal attacks on secular activists in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
ALSO READ At least 3,000 arrested in Bangladesh crackdown, PM vows to catch killers”The religious majority and the fundamentalist groups want to eliminate the Hindu community. Since last two years, this religious cleansing has gained further pace. Stability in the Indian subcontinent region can never be achieved with Bangladesh turning into a fundamental state. So if India wants stability in the region it should act to stop the annihilation of minorities in our country,” Dasgupta, who is also Prosecutor of International Crimes Tribunal, claimed.Pandey’s murder comes within a week of killings of a Hindu priest, a Christian grocer and wife of an anti-terror police officer. In February, militants stabbed to death a Hindu priest at a temple and shot and wounded a devotee who went to his aid.
ALSO READ Bangladesh: ISIS claims responsibility for Hindu ashram worker’s murderIn April, a liberal professor was brutally hacked to death in Rajshahi city. In the same month, a Hindu tailor was hacked to death in his shop and Bangladesh’s first gay magazine editor was brutally murdered along with a friend in his flat in Dhaka by Islamist forces. Bangladesh has also seen a series of attacks on secular and liberal bloggers in 2015.”The condition of Hindus is horrible in Bangladesh. Although we have a secular government of Awami League party, but at grass-roots level the situation is grim. Rapes, murder, loot, arson, destruction of property of Hindu and other minority communities is rampant. Until and unless India puts pressure on Bangladesh, the fundamentalists won’t budge,” well-known actor of Bangladesh and former managing director of Bangladesh Film Development Corporation Piyush Bandopadhaya said.”India is a major power in the region, it can’t sit idle when Hindus are being brutally slaughtered in a neighbouring country,” he said.Bandopadhaya, who along with Dasgupta, lauded the quick response of Indian High Commission in Bangladesh, which had sent its officials to meet the family members of the Hindu priest and colleagues in the ashram, but said India needs to do more.Human rights groups and Hindu leaders in Bangladesh have been demanding more security for religious minorities. Although the minority leaders are expecting Indian government to take up the cause of the minorities in Bangladesh, a senior Bangladesh minister feels the attack on minorities are actually aimed at creating hurdles in the functioning of the secular and liberal Awami League government.”This is actually a ploy by fundamentalist and Jamat forces to put up a bad image of Bangladesh. These attacks are not aimed at minorities, but the real target is to malign our government and turn our country into a fundamentalist state. We will never let that happen. We have taken several steps to ensure the safety and security of minorities and strict action will be taken against the culprits,” Bangladesh Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told PTI over phone from Dhaka.When asked what would Dhaka do if India wants to take up the cause of security of Hindus, Inu said, “India and Bangladesh share very good relations. India is our friend. If India wants to take up a matter with us, we will talk. There is no harm in it.”

Parties at centre of $81 million cyber heist pledge cooperation | Reuters

Parties at the centre of one of the biggest-ever cyber heists pledged on Tuesday to cooperate to recover $81 million stolen from a Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Fed, following weeks of accusations over who is to blame.

Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley, Bangladesh Bank Governor Fazle Kabir and representatives from global messaging network SWIFT met in Basel, Switzerland on Tuesday to discuss the early-February heist.

The meeting was the first face-to-face encounter since the cyber attack left the three blaming each other over the incident in which criminals, using SWIFT messages, stole the funds from the Bangladesh central bank’s account held at the New York Fed.

“All parties stated their concern over this event and their continued commitment to work together to normalise operations,” the New York Fed, Bangladesh Bank, and SWIFT said in a joint statement.

“The parties also agreed to pursue jointly certain common goals: to recover the entire proceeds of the fraud and bring the perpetrators to justice, and protect the global financial system from these types of attacks.”

A senior official with Bangladesh’s central bank who was in close contact with the delegation that had traveled from Dhaka to Basel said the bank’s top priority was to secure close cooperation from all the parties involved.

“Bangladesh Bank believes if the New York Federal Reserve were to intervene, it will be possible to retrieve the money,” said the official.

The joint statement said the three parties had discussed actions taken so far and exchanged information about “cyber and physical vulnerabilities” highlighted by the incident.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bangladesh police are among the groups investigating the breach.

In the latest twist, SWIFT on Monday rejected allegations by officials in Bangladesh that technicians related to SWIFT made the central bank more vulnerable to hacking.

When asked by Reuters outside his hotel in Basel on Tuesday, Kabir declined to elaborate on the joint statement.

A spokeswoman for SWIFT, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, declined to elaborate on who attended the meeting. A New York Fed spokeswoman declined to discuss what steps were planned.

(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Basel and Jim Finkle in Boston, Sanjeev Migliani in Dhaka; Editing by Alan Crosby)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Bangladesh Bank officials say to meet NY Fed, SWIFT; seek to recover stolen money | Reuters

DHAKA Bangladesh’s central bank chief will meet the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and a senior executive from global financial messaging service SWIFT next week to seek the recovery of about $81 million stolen by hackers, officials in Dhaka said.

Two Bangladesh Bank officials said the bank believed both the New York Fed and SWIFT bore some responsibility for the February cyber heist. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to brief the media.

The bank’s governor Fazle Kabir, New York Fed President William Dudley and a SWIFT representative will meet in Basel, Switzerland around May 10, they and another person briefed by the central bank said. It was not immediately clear who would represent SWIFT.

Spokeswomen for SWIFT and the New York Fed declined comment.

Hackers tried to steal nearly $1 billion from Bangladesh Bank’s settlement account at the New York Fed in early February by sending fraudulent transfer orders through SWIFT.

Of the 35 transfer orders sent, 30 were blocked. Four transfers to a Philippine bank for a total of $81 million went through while a $20 million transfer to a Sri Lankan company was reversed because the hackers mis-spelled the name of the firm.

“There is a responsibility the New York Fed has to accept,” said one of the Bangladesh Bank officials. “If you stopped 30 transactions, why did you not stop the others?

“SWIFT also bears responsibility,” the official said. “It’s supposed to be a closed system. Now you have seen they have disclosed that there have been attacks previously on its software.”

A potential lawsuit by Bangladesh Bank would probably fail in the United States unless it could marshal more evidence than is currently public to show negligence by the New York Fed or SWIFT, said William Black, a professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

A U.S. court would look to any contracts that Bangladesh Bank had with the New York Fed or SWIFT, and those contracts most likely require only “due care” to prevent such a hack, Black said.

Citing news reports that the hackers sent the correct codes to the New York Fed to authenticate their requests, Black said that would seem to meet the legal standard for taking due care to protect the money, Black said.

The New York Fed could also try to put a stop to a lawsuit by arguing that it has sovereign immunity as an arm of the U.S. government, but that question would need to be decided by a judge, Black said.

Last week, SWIFT acknowledged that the Bangladesh Bank attack was not an isolated incident but one of several recent criminal schemes that aimed to take advantage of the global messaging platform used by about 11,000 financial institutions.

The other Bangladesh Bank official said lawyers would be present at the meeting. Ajmalul Hussain, a Dhaka-based lawyer hired by the central bank to help it retrieve the funds, could not be reached for comment. His office said he was out of the country.

It was not immediately known if Bangladesh Bank had retained any U.S. or European law firm to help recover the money.

However the bank said in an internal report in March it was considering “preparing the ground to make a legitimate claim for the loss of funds” against the New York Fed “through a legal process.”

Both central bank officials said Kabir, the governor, would be accompanied by an official from the accounts and budgeting department on the trip to Basel and would seek the recovery of the stolen funds.

Basel is the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements, a group of major central banks. Central bankers from several countries will meet there next week, according to the bank.

The stolen $81 million was sent to a bank in the Philippines and quickly passed on to casinos and casino agents. Most of it remains missing. However, one junket operator has returned about $15 million to authorities in Manila.

One of the Bangladesh Bank officials expressed confidence that there would be a resolution to the dispute soon, though he didn’t provide any evidence for the optimism.

(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle, Jonathan Spicer and David Ingram; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Brian Thevenot)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Bangladesh in denial, al Qaeda releases new video of gay rights activist’s assassination

Even as the Bangladesh police dismiss the claims of al Qaeda-affiliated Ansar al Islam behind the twin murders in Dhaka, the militant group released a new video showing graphic images of gay rights activist Xulhaz Mannan and his friend Tanay Majumder, lying in pool of blood in the former’s apartment. The video comes three days after Ansar al Islam released a statement claiming responsibility for the murders of ‘pioneers of practicing and promoting homosexuality in Bangladesh.'<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Released online on Ansar al Islam Bangladesh’s Twitter account on Friday, the video once again reiterates the killing to be the work of al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). The video merges clips of international news media which extensively reported on the incident — Mannan was a USAID employee and US authorities including Secretary of State John Kerry and the ambassador of Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat expressed outrage over his death — with graphic images of Mannan and Tanay’s bodies being dragged along a pool of blood in his apartment. The video indicates that the assailants had time to capture the ghastly images on film after the killings and flee in time.The killing was carried out on Monday evening when a group of men posing as courier guys entered the building in Kalabagan area in Dhaka where Mannan resided. Security guard Parvez Mollah, first encountered the men who inquired about Mannan’s flat for delivering a packet. Around four men, clean shaven and carrying backpacks are believed to have entered the flat and attacked Mannan and Tanay with machetes. Another three men were guarding the building gate. They all left firing gun shots and attacking Parvez with knives.Mohammad Iqbal, Officer in Charge, Kalabaghan police station where the case is registered, told dna, that the police reached the building on time and encountered the men as they were escaping. “They were getting out of the building and running. Some of them had pistols and were firing. We were very close to catching them but they escaped,” he said, adding that the assailants have been on the move since the killings but the Dhaka police are close to catching themIn Mannan’s house police found few documents left behind by the assailants including the list of targets the group is likely to attack. “It has no names, just the kind of targets,” Iqbal said. The document, ‘Who’s Next ?’ is being circulated by Ansar al Islam on social media listing out eight criteria — those who insult the Prophet, oppose Islamic Sharia, intentionally misrepresent Islam — in short ‘every apostate and enemies of Islam.’Since last year, AQIS and the Islamic State group have been desperately trying to make their presence recognised in Bangladesh, which has been announced as a new operating ground for the jihadist groups. Both groups have claimed responsibility for a series of beheadings, killings and attacks on bloggers, activists, the minority community and on foreign nationals.(The video released by Ansar al Islam on Friday — https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ChM-LhJWwAAXMc3.jpg)

Bangladesh professor hacked to death by Islamist militants | Reuters

DHAKA A university professor was hacked to death on Saturday in northwestern Bangladesh, police said, with Islamic State claiming responsibility for the latest in a series of attacks on liberal activists.

Two assailants on a motorcycle attacked Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, slitting his throat and hacking him to death, Rajshahi city police chief Mohammad Shamsuddin told reporters, quoting witnesses.

He was found lying in a pool of blood near his home, where he was apparently waiting for a bus to the university campus about 200 kilometres (125 miles) northwest of Dhaka when he was attacked.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of the professor for “calling to atheism”, the U.S.-based SITE monitoring service said quoting the militant group’s Amaq Agency.

Police said the murder was similar to other recent attacks on secular bloggers by Islamist militants. But fellow university teachers said Siddiquee, while active in cultural events, never spoke or wrote anything about religion or Islam.

“Professor Rezaul was killed in a similar fashion as the killings of bloggers,” Shamsuddin said, adding he was a peaceful person and had no enemies.

The Muslim-majority nation of 160 million has seen a surge in violent attacks over the past few months in which members of minority Muslim sects and other religious groups have also been targeted.

Five secular bloggers and a publisher have been hacked to death in Bangladesh since February last year.

A group affiliated with al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the killing of a liberal Bangladeshi blogger earlier this month, the SITE has said.

Bangladesh authorities said the homegrown militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team is behind the attacks on online critics of religious extremism.

The gruesome killing on Saturday triggered a protest by teachers and students of the Rajshahi University, blocking a major road and demanding immediate arrest of the killers. Three teachers at the university have been killed in recent years.

Islamic State has also claimed responsibility for the killings of two foreigners, and attacks on mosques and Christian priests in Bangladesh since September, but police said local militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen was behind those attacks.

The government has denied that the Islamic State or al Qaeda groups have a presence in Bangladesh. At least five militants have been killed in shootouts since November as security forces have stepped up a crackdown on Islamist militants looking to establish a sharia-based Muslim state.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clelia Oziel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Bangladesh asks NY Fed, Philippines to help retrieve stolen money | Reuters

DHAKA The new governor of Bangladesh’s central bank has sent formal letters to the New York Fed, as well as central bank and money laundering chiefs in the Philippines, asking them to help recover its stolen $81 million, a senior central bank official said on Sunday.

The news came as Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said the government was waiting to hear the recommendations of an investigation committee to decide whether the central bank should file a suit against the Fed after one of the biggest cyber heists in history.

Unknown hackers breached the computer systems of Bangladesh Bank in early February and attempted to steal $951 million from its account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which it uses for international settlements.

Some attempted transfers were blocked, but $81 million was transferred to accounts in the Philippines belonging to casino operators.

The central bank official told Reuters that Fazle Kabir, who became governor a week ago, had asked the NY Fed chief and the heads of the Philippines central bank and money laundering agency to assist Bangladesh in retrieving the funds.

Kabir asked the Fed to investigate if there had been any lapses or whether it had any involvement in the heist, the official said.

Kabir sent separate letters to the ambassador of Bangladesh at the U.N. headquarters, and its permanent representative, urging them to pursue the NY Fed.

The previous central bank governor, Atiur Rahman, resigned earlier this month after details emerged in the Philippines that $30 million of the money was delivered in cash to a casino junket operator in Manila, while the rest went to two casinos.

“In his letters the new governor sought all kind of help from them to retrieve the stolen money as we are following multiple efforts for the sake of the country,” the official said.

Last week Bangladesh also formally sought assistance from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to track down the cyber crooks.

Bangladesh has appointed law firms to weigh its options vis-à-vis the NY Fed.

“We will wait till the recommendations of the government- formed investigation committee,” Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith told Reuters on Sunday, referring to a three-member committee headed by Mohammad Farash Uddin, a former central bank governor.

“We will act as per its recommendations.”

Earlier this month Muhith said Dhaka might resort to suing the Fed to recover the money: “The Fed must take responsibility,” he said.

(Editing by Clelia Oziel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Hundreds march against Indo-Bangla power plant from Dhaka to Sundarbans

Dhaka: A 250km-long protest march against plans to build an Indo-Bangladesh coal-fired power plant near the Sundarbans began on Thursday with hundreds of people calling for scrapping the project they believe would harm the ecosystem of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Mangrove plantations near Moushuni island, which is a part of the Sunderbans national park. REUTERS

Mangrove plantations near Moushuni island, which is a part of the Sunderbans national park. REUTERS

The Rampal power plant, an India-Bangladesh joint venture on which preliminary work has already begun, will provide much needed electricity to the country when it becomes operational in 2018.

India and Bangladesh signed a deal in 2010 to jointly develop the power plant.

Demonstrators began a four-day “long march” from Dhaka to Khulna in protest against the power plant, which they believe is a threat to the world’s largest mangrove forest — the Sundarbans.

Environmentalists, cultural and political activists, and eminent individuals began the march from Jatiya Press Club in a bid to press the government to abandon the project.

The government is bent on establishing the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant 14 kilometres upstream of the Sundarbans Reserve Forest, a world heritage site declared by UNESCO.

International rights bodies, environment organisations and many others have tried but failed to urge the Bangladesh government for relocation of the plant fearing for the safety of the ecosystem the forest beholds.

“It is a project of mass destruction,” Professor Anu Muhammad, member secretary of National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, was quoted as saying by the Daily Star.

He slammed the government for “dubious approach” to climate change and alleged that it was claiming recognition for contribution to environment on one hand while “trying to destroy the Sundarbans” on the other hand.

Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah, president of the national committee, inaugurated the “long march” that will travel through Manikganj, Faridpur, Magura, Jhenaidah and Jessore to eventually reach Rampal in Khulna.

They will hold rallies at different places and raise awareness among the locals.

PTI

Suspected Islamist militants kill Hindu priest in Bangladesh

Suspected Islamist militants stabbed and killed a Hindu priest at a temple in Bangladesh on Sunday, and shot and injured a devotee who went to his aid, police said.Bangladesh has suffered a wave of Islamist militant violence in recent months, including a series of bomb attacks on mosques and Hindu temples.Some of the attacks have been claimed by Islamic State, which has also said it is behind the killings of a Japanese citizen, an Italian aid worker and a policeman.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In Sunday’s attack, five or six motorcycle-borne attackers cut the throat of the priest, Jogeshwar Roy, 55, as he was organising prayers at the Deviganj temple near Panchagar, 494 km (308 miles) north of the capital, Dhaka, police said.”We suspect that they might be members of the banned Islamist militant group Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB),” police official Humayun Kabir told Reuters.The Islamist militant group could not be reached for comment. No group has so far claimed responsibility.The motive for the killing was probably to create an unstable situation in the country and ultimately establish a caliphate, Kabir, the deputy director general of police in the area, added.One devotee who tried to stop the priest’s attackers was shot in the leg before the group fled, he said. Police have not yet made any arrests.The government denies that Islamic State has a presence in the country of 160 million people. Police have blamed earlier attacks on home-grown Islamist militants.