The U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat, endured an attack by armed men on her motorcade on Saturday night in the south Asian nation’s capital, Dhaka, as country continues to deal with an uprising by demonstrators linked to Islamic terror networks.
According to a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh, an “group of armed adult men, some on motorcycles” attacked a vehicle carrying the Ambassador and others in the convoy. Though the Ambassador and her entourage were unharmed, “two security vehicles sustained some damage” in the violence.
Though framed as peaceful student protests for road safety in much of the world media, violent attacks on law enforcement and public transport have become commonplace since the uprising began last week. The demonstrations are being backed by Islamist groups such as Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), and its parent organization, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). ICS has been linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State terror cells operating in Bangladesh.
The Bangladeshi government has pledged to make road safety reforms and has called on student demonstrators to return to their classes immediately. As the protests became more violent, it reportedly attempted to maintain public order by disabling 3G and 4G cellular data, and deploying rubber bullets and tear gas, drawing international criticism.
Bernicat, an Obama holdover, ironically praised the protesters as having “united and captured the imagination of the whole country” in an earlier statement. While the statement acknowledged “senseless property destruction, including of buses and other vehicles” by some of the protesters, it accused the government of Bangladesh of committing “brutal attacks and violence over the weekend against the thousands of young people who have been peacefully exercising their democratic rights“.
The unprovoked attack on Ambassador Bernicat, who has no jurisdiction over Bangladesh’s roads, suggests that the motivations behind these protests and the instability they may bring should be cause for concern from the United States.