The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhaka on security, political trials

Dhaka/New Delhi, Dec. 6: Even before an Indian delegation in Dhaka got down to the task of assessing the security situation, some members of the Indian Parliament grabbed the opportunity offered by a death threat to Sourav Ganguly and his boys to engage in some Bangladesh bashing.

It was revealed yesterday that a little-known militant group, Harkat-ul-Jihad, had sent a letter threatening to kill the Indian cricketers if they went ahead with their tour of Bangladesh.

A four-member team from Delhi arrived in Dhaka today to take stock of security measures in the wake of the development. Its arrival delayed by about four hours, the team drove from the airport straight to a meeting with home ministry officials.

'We will discuss the threat and the security situation here. The threat can't be taken lightly,' K.V. Kotosh, a member of the Indian delegation and a joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, said.

State minister for home affairs Lutfozzaman Babar, however, dismissed the threat as 'bogus and a conspiracy to tarnish the image of Bangladesh'.

BJP member Sushil Kumar Modi, who raised the issue in Parliament, did not agree. He criticised the Bangladesh government for describing the Harkat-ul-Jihad as a 'paper organisation'.

'The organisation was set up four to five years ago with the help of Osama bin Laden. It was twice responsible for an attack on Sheikh Hasina,' he said.

Emerging from a meeting with officials of his ministry which is responsible for internal security, Babar sought to dispel Indian fears by saying that after an investigation, 'we are satisfied that this was nothing but a bogus letter'.

The players' departure, scheduled for tomorrow, has been put on hold until the security team, led by Yashovardhan Azad, IG, VIP security, reports back to Delhi on the threat perception.

Ali Asghar Lobby, president of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, promised watertight security.

'The government is backing the cricket board and there will be no negligence in providing all-out security to the Indian players,' said Lobby, a member of parliament from the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Bangladeshi cricket officials still hope the tour will go ahead with an amended schedule. Whether that hope will come true now depends on the visiting Indian security team which is set to meet officials of the foreign ministry and the cricket board tomorrow before conveying to Delhi their assessment.

Bangladesh cricket authorities are, however, already considering several options. The matches in southeastern Chittagong ' the second Test starting December 16 and a one-day International on December 23 ' may be cancelled for security reasons, a board source said. Or all the matches can be played in Dhaka, where security facilities are better.

'Whatever is the decision on the Indian tour you will be able to know by tomorrow afternoon,' Khandaker Jamiluddin, a board official, told a news conference.

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