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Extremism triggered by local political unrest may be behind Dhaka hostage-taking

NEW DELHI -- A news agency under the influence of the Islamic State (IS) militant group has reported IS was involved in the armed assault and hostage-taking at a restaurant in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

It remains to be seen whether and how far the IS cooperated with the militants who carried out the assault. However, IS and al Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have claimed responsibility for a number of local murders in recent years.

The latest incident has demonstrated that empathy with these radical groups is spreading in Bangladesh.

A blogger critical of extremism, a Christian who had converted from Islam, and an Italian aid worker were all murdered in 2015. A Japanese man was also murdered on the outskirts of Rangpur, northern Bangladesh, in October last year. Two gay rights activists were slain in April this year. On July 1 this year, a Hindu priest was killed in western Bangladesh.

IS and AQIS have claimed responsibility for many of these incidents as if they were competing with each other. There is a possibility that the rival extremist groups are competing to increase their influence in Bangladesh.

However, the Bangladeshi government has denied that international terrorist organizations have been involved in the series of the incidents, and blames opposition party supporters and regional extremist groups.

According to local news organizations, security forces launched a large-scale crackdown on extremists in June, detaining over 11,000 people. The authorities claim that many of these people belonged to regional extremist groups.

In 2010, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina set up a court to try war crimes that occurred when the country became independent from Pakistan in 1971. The court has convicted the leaders of opposition parties including Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). In May, JI leader Motiur Rahman Nizami was executed.

Opposition parties have criticized the Hasina government's crackdowns as political suppression. Clashes between supporters for ruling and opposition parties have led to some deaths.

There is a possibility that the rise of Islamic extremists reflects domestic political unrest.

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