DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 3, 2016, 2:52 PM (IDT)
The Islamic State struck the West again on June 1, when it activated a local Bangladeshi cell for a murderous, hostage-taking attack on the Artisan Bakery and O’Kitchen Restaurant, a favorite haunt of foreign visitors near the diplomatic zone of Dakha, the capital. A large contingent of Italian businessmen dining there that night was specifically targeted by ISIS in revenge for the Rome government’s military intervention in the campaign to eject the Islamists from Libya.
DEBKAfile intelligence and counter terror sources note that the long Islamist arm reached into the Indian subcontinent, 7,000km away, to settle its score with Italy, rather than sending its killers by the obvious route from the ISIS capital Sirte in Libya to Italy across 1,200km of Mediterranean Sea. This tactic saved them the risk of running the gauntlet of the Italian Navy boats which are fanned out across the Sidra Gulf to staunch the flow of migrants (an important source of income for ISIS) and intercept terrorists heading for attack in Europe.
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest manufacturing center after China for the major Western fashion houses, netting each year 26.5 Billion USD, 75 pc of its foreign currency earnings. Among the important Italian fashion houses manufacturing in Bangladesh are Prada, Milan, and Benetton.
Italian special operations contingents are the largest Western force operating on several fronts in Libya since early January. They are fighting to capture the key port town of Sirte together with British and US special forces and alongside local Libyan forces.
On April 29, DEBKAfile reported: “ISIS fighters smashed a force of Italian and British Special Ops troops on Wednesday, April 27 in the first battle of its kind in Libya. This battle will result in the delay of the planned Western invasion of Libya, as the encounter proved that European forces are not ready for this kind of guerilla warfare. The sources also said the planners of the invasion were surprised by the high combat skills of the ISIS fighters.”
The Bangladesh attack was therefore not the first contretemps suffered by Italy in its fight on Islamist terror.
Inside Libya, the fighting continues unresolved for lack of air support. The US, Italy, France and the UK cannot agree on which of them will supply air cover for the ground forces battling for Sirte and which will assume command.
In early June, overall command of the campaign was given to NATO. That decision did not break the allied impasse either, because its members remained at loggerheads over respective air force contributions, provision of the logistic intelligence required for aerial operations and, lastly, funding.
Due to insufficient air cover, western and Libyan special forces are stuck in the parts of Sirte they have captured, but cannot advance towards the city’s center or root out the ISIS fighters.
The fact that ISIS was able to operate a terror cell in far-away Bangladesh to strike a counterblow in the battle in Northern Africa, testified to the global scope of the terror organization’s command and communication reach.
Just like the November 2015 Paris attacks, the terrorists were in telephone contact with their masters in the Middle East, once in a while sending pictures of the victims they murdered inside the restaurant.
In the attack, the terrorists killed 9 Italian businessmen, 7 Japanese businessmen, one US citizen, 3 local citizens, and one Indian.
The hostages were executed by beheading with machetes.
The counter terrorism sources report that, just as in the terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Istanbul, the attackers in Dakha were previously known to local security and intelligence agencies, at least five of the seven terrorists were known to the Bangladesh security agencies, who claimed they were unable to stop them.