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US Asstnt Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal in Bangladesh: terrorism and intolerance on top agenda

Bilateral cooperation in countering terrorism and extremism were discussed on day one

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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal addresses a news conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, April 3, 2014. AFP
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Dhaka, Bangladesh, May 5,2016:

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal said she discussed bilateral cooperation in countering terrorism and extremism during a meeting with Bangladesh’s foreign minister and other senior officials in Dhaka on Wednesday.

The meeting on the first day of a three-day visit by Biswal took place amid mounting American pressure on Bangladesh to stop a wave of machete killings by suspected Islamic extremists and to thoroughly investigate killings of secular bloggers and activists dating to last year.

“Important talks with FM Ali, State Minister Alam, & FS Haque on US-#Bangladesh partnership and combating terrorism and extremism,” Biswal said in a message posted on Twitter.

Biswal, the assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian Affairs, arrived in the Bangladeshi capital nine days after two Bangladeshi gay rights activists, including a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) worker, were slain together in a machete-attack by suspected militants.

Later on Wednesday, Biswal said she met with staff at the U.S. embassy and USAID to share memories of Xulhaz Mannan, the aid worker who was killed at this Dhaka apartment on April 25 alongside K. Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, a theater actor.

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Both men were gay rights activists and Mannan was the editor of Bangladesh’s first magazine devoted to the coverage of LGBT issues in the country.

“#XulhazMannan embodied courage and selflessness and his legacy will live on in causes he championed,” Biswal tweeted on Wednesday.

Three other people – an English professor, a secular blogger and a Hindu tailor – were killed in separate machete attacks last month that marked an escalation in killings at the hands of suspected extremists in Bangladesh. Last year, militants hacked to death five writers and intellectuals, including Bangladeshi-American secular blogger Avijit Roy.

Closed-door meeting

After landing in Dhaka, Biswal went to a state guest house where she met behind closed doors for at least two hours with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali and other senior officials from the ministry.

In Dhaka, Madrasa students carrying out a rally. Wikimedia Commons
In Dhaka, Madrasa students carrying out a rally. Wikimedia Commons

At around 11:30 a.m., the foreign minister and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam left the building without talking to journalists.

Biswal was scheduled to meet on Thursday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. During her visit she was also expected to meet with local human rights and civil society groups.

The senior American diplomat arrived in Bangladesh six days after her boss, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, called Hasina to offer U.S. support for the investigation into the killing of Mannan and Tonoy, according to officials at state.

“The Secretary also condemned other incidents in a recent spate of violence,” according to a statement issued last week by the State Department.

“The Secretary urged Prime Minister Hasina to ensure a thorough investigation of all of these incidents, and to redouble law enforcement efforts to prevent future attacks and protect those who are at risk,” the statement added. (Benar News)

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UN Agencies and Bangladesh Government Advances to Prevent Further Deforestation

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

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A deforested section of the Chakmakul camp for Rohingya refugees clings to a hillside in southern Bangladesh, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

U.N. agencies and the Bangladesh government have begun distributing liquid petroleum gas stoves in Cox’s Bazar to help prevent further deforestation, which has been accelerating with the huge influx of Rohingya refugees during the past year.

Cox’s Bazar is home to large areas of protected forest and an important wildlife habitat. The arrival of more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar has put enormous pressure on these precious resources.

U.N. Migration Agency spokesman, Paul Dillon tells VOA, the refugees have been cutting down the trees and clearing land to build makeshift shelters. He says they and many local villagers also rely almost exclusively on firewood to cook their meals.

“Consequently, the forests in that area are being denuded at the rate of roughly four football fields every single day. We are told by the experts at this rate, by 2019 there will be no further forests in that area,” he said.

Deforestation
Deforestation

Scientists note deforestation has devastating consequences for the environment leading to soil erosion, fewer crops, increased flooding and, most significantly, the loss of habitat for millions of species.

Dillon says disappearing forests are putting great pressure on the animals in the region.

“It interrupts migration pathways and regrettably forces these, sort of, artificial confrontations between animals in the wild and communities as they move into areas that have been logged out often-times in search of arable farmland and that type of thing,” he said.

Also Read: First Satellite Launched by Bangladesh

The project aims to distribute liquid petroleum gas stoves and gas cylinders to around 250,000 families over the coming months. U.N. agencies say the stoves will have additional benefits besides helping to prevent deforestation.

For example, they note smoke from firewood burned in homes and shelters without proper ventilation causes many health problems, especially among women and children who spend much of their time indoors. (VOA)