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January 23, 2002
1815 IST

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USIS attackers came from Bangladesh: Officials

Josy Joseph in New Delhi

Intelligence agencies believe that the gunmen who attacked the American Centre in Kolkata on Tuesday sneaked in from Bangladesh, which is fast turning into a transit point for those who want to carry out subversive activities in India.

The Bangladesh government has further complicated the situation for Indian intelligence agencies by withdrawing the surveillance on the Pakistan high commission and some its staffers who were operating for the Inter-Services Intelligence, sources said.

"We fear that Bangladesh would become a haven for all sorts of characters who want to come into India," a senior government official said.

The attack on the American Centre once again proves that Bangladesh is a safe launching pad for terrorists trained by the ISI, the official said.

The Bangladesh government's non-cooperation in checking infiltration and subversive activities from its soil has "only added to our problems", he said.

During Sheikh Hasina's tenure as the prime minister, India had repeatedly told Bangladesh about this problem.

Successive Nepal governments have been coordinating with Indian agencies in monitoring the activities of the Pakistani embassy staff in Kathmandu. In the recent times, at least three officials of the embassy, including a senior diplomat, have been caught trying to distribute RDX and fake Indian currency.

However, Bangladesh's present government has been almost hostile to Indian requests for cooperation in checking cross-border infiltration.

During the period of Hasina, the Indian government had provided proof to show that the Pakistan high commission premises and some of its staff were being used by the ISI. "The Bangladesh agencies were keeping a close watch" on the high commission and movements of its staffers, officials said.

The new Bangladesh premier, Khalida Zia, is known for her anti-India stand and sympathies towards Pakistan due to personal and political reasons.

According to initial reports, the attack on the American centre was carried out by terrorists belonging to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, which originally started in Pakistan, but today has a full-fledged wing in Bangladesh.

The Hasina government had said that the HuJI was given $1 million by Osama bin Laden.

In all likelihood, the HuJI collaborated with Dubai-based mafia dons to carry out the attacks.

The IC 814 hijackers, too, came from Bangladesh into West Bengal and then went to Nepal.

Another famous case is that of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar. In the early 90s, Azhar, who was then the leader of the Harkat-ul-Ansar, landed up in Delhi from Dhaka with a forged European passport.

He was arrested in Srinagar and was later released in 1999 in exchange for the passengers of IC 814.

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