Never forget: Commemorating the August 21 terrorist attack


In the annals of history, the world pledges “Never Again” each time the Holocaust is remembered—a harrowing reminder of the inhumane acts perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces. On this year’s August 21, Bangladesh marks the 19th anniversary of the August 21 terrorist attack, an event that unfolded under the direct orders of Tarique Rahman, the acting chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP, characterized as a Tier-III terrorist organization by several courts in the United States, represents an ultra-Islamist faction.

In the glaring daylight of August 21, 2004, members of the Harkat ul Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), an Islamist militant group, unleashed a gruesome grenade assault on a rally held by the opposition party at Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. This attack was meticulously orchestrated by influential figures within the BNP-led government at the time, who conspired to eliminate their political rivals, with their main target being Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the Awami League.

The plot was foiled as Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped the attack due to her party colleagues forming a human shield around her. Tragically, the attack claimed the lives of 24 individuals, including Ivy Rahman, the Secretary of Women Affairs for the Awami League, while more than 400 were left injured.

This heinous act of terrorism unfolded just after Sheikh Hasina had concluded her speech, rallying with the words “Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu”. A grenade detonated mere yards away from the makeshift stage on which she stood atop a truck. The rally was in protest of recent bombings in Sylhet and called for an end to the government fostering bomb attacks.

In the subsequent 90 seconds, a barrage of grenades exploded—13 in total—tearing through the rally grounds. Media reports indicated that party leaders and security personnel shielded Sheikh Hasina as she crouched on the truck, with the grenades missing their mark and landing on either side. Swiftly, she was ushered into a bulletproof sports utility vehicle (SUV) while security forces fired blanks to clear a path. Despite gunfire and billowing smoke, her bulletproof Mercedes Benz with three layers of protection shielded her from the bullets. One bullet punctured the SUV’s rear wheel, and the rear right side of the windshield bore a significant hole. Additionally, three bullets struck the front windshield near the front seat, where the former Prime Minister was seated.

Amid the terror of this event, a startling incident largely escaped the attention of local and international media.

As Tarique Rahman and his BNP associates harbored ambitions of eliminating Sheikh Hasina and other prominent Awami League figures, a lavish celebration party was planned to take place on August 30, 2004 at Tarique’s infamous comfort house named Khwab on the outskirts of Dhaka. The event featured a host of female participants, including cabaret dancers from various countries. Tarique Rahman’s confidant and business partner, Giasuddin al Mamun, and Towhidul Islam alias Ashik Islam, an assistant to then-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, were in charge of this event—a celebration intended to mark the downfall of the Awami League and Sheikh Hasina.

But this celebration party was cancelled at the last moment, as things did not go as per Tarique Rahman’s blueprint.

Although Tarique Rahman has since been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a Dhaka court, and similarly punished by another court for his direct involvement in a cross-border terrorist arms haul, no ruling Awami League leader or print and electronic media outlet has labeled Tarique Rahman as a CONVICTED TERRORIST over the past fifteen years. It remains imperative for the Awami League to unequivocally reveal the true nature of Tarique Rahman.

As Bangladesh solemnly observes August 21, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina must question her party members, activists, and the ostensibly pro-Awami League media entities. They must account for their silence in refraining from identifying Tarique Rahman as a CONVICTED TERRORIST.

Additionally, Sheikh Hasina needs to raise questions about the planned celebration party on August 30 at Tarique Rahman’s Khwab. The memory of August 21 serves as a poignant reminder of the horrors of terrorism and the need for vigilance against its perpetrators.


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