On Friday, July 1st, five gunmen from a domestic Bangladeshi terrorist group known as Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery and Cafe in Dhaka
and took hostages, holding them for twelve hours before commandos from the Rapid Action Battalion successfully ended the siege. Four of the attackers were killed, one is being questioned. Twenty hostages were killed by the attackers – nine Italians, seven Japanese, an Indian, an American and two local men. Two police officers were also killed during the response.
During the siege, the gunmen sorted the hostages – taking foreigners upstairs while leaving locals downstairs. Hostages were told to recite verses from the Quran. Those who could recite them survived and were even fed by the attackers. Those who could not were tortured and killed. The sorting of hostages is not unusual, as it has been seen before in terror attacks, including Kenya (at least twice) and Mali.
While the government of Bangladesh continues to insist that this attack was entirely homegrown, media outlets affiliated with Daesh released pre-attack photos of the attackers standing in front of a Daesh flag, as well as photos of dead hostages taken during the siege, allegedly with their own phones. JMB has previously pledged allegiance to Daesh, while a rival domestic group – Ansarullah Bangla Team – has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
Two things are interesting to note: first, this attack, as well as other recent ones around the world, demonstrates a phenomenon that CNN has raised and that I mentioned in an earlier article. As Daesh continues to lose ground in Iraq (and to a significantly lesser extent Syria), instead of capitulating, they will merely flow to other regions to re-establish and re-assert themselves. Second is that this particular attack furthers the trend of radical Islamic groups attracting higher educated, middle-class recruits. Four of the five attackers were from middle class or higher families, including one who had connections to the ruling political party. None showed any indicators of radicalization until they disappeared prior to the attack. A recent study by Queen Mary University of London demonstrated that three major risk factors for violent radicalization were youth, wealth, and being in full-time education. Many of the recruits that attempted to travel from Europe to Syria and Iraq to fight for Daesh fit the profile, as do many of al-Qaeda’s founding members and leaders. According to CNN, as
many as 70% of Daesh’s recruits are middle class, most with no real religious affiliation prior to radicalization. Traditional models of terror recruitment suggest lower educated or religiously educated recruits. The Obama administration has even alluded to the same in speeches, although that premise was challenged almost immediately.
Despite proclamations of loss of territory by Daesh, they are still alive, and they still have a global reach. And while our focus is on Daesh currently, al-Qaeda is still out there kicking, and competing with Daesh for dominance. While they may not have the reach they once did, several affiliates are actively plotting, and it’s only a matter of time before we hear from them again. Both groups will continue to seek out opportunities to strike inside America, whether through a directed strike or an inspired one. While our special operations forces take the fight to them overseas, our first responders and responsibly armed citizens must be ready to face them here as well.
About the author
Joel is a 12 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US. He is the owner of Hybrid Defensive Strategies, LLC in Chesapeake, VA, and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram. Any opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Coast Guard or the US Government.