Bangladesh tour in doubt as Australians return to home states
Cricket Australia delayed the departure of the Test team on Sunday after receiving advice from foreign ministry officials that militants may be planning attacks on Australian interests in the country.
“There has been no change to the situation or our current position,” a Cricket Australian official told AFP via email.
“While we’re waiting for a decision, players have been asked to re-join their state training programs.”
Bangladesh has insisted that the players will be given the level of security usually reserved for visiting heads of state, with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan saying the “highest security protocol” would be provided.
But the death of an Italian aid worker in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter — shot three times on Monday night by attackers who fled on a motorcycle in a murder claimed by Islamic State group — has escalated safety fears.
International schools in Bangladesh were closed on Tuesday while Western embassies restricted their diplomats’ movements.
The British Foreign Office has warned against attending gatherings of westerners in Bangladesh due to “reliable information” militants may be planning to target western interests.
The US embassy in Dhaka said its diplomats would be barred from attending international hotels and advised citizens to follow suit.
“There is reliable new information to suggest that militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh,” the embassy said in a security message.
“Such attacks, should they occur, could likely affect other foreigners , including US citizens.”
Australian team officials travelled back from the Bangladesh capital on Tuesday after talks with senior security and intelligence figures, including Khan.
They were expected to meet with Australian foreign ministry officials Wednesday as well as Cricket Australia’s board, management and players.
Bangladesh prides itself on being a mainly moderate Muslim country. But the gruesome killings of four atheist bloggers this year rocked the nation and sparked a crackdown on hardline Islamist groups.
Bangladesh Cricket Board president Nazmul Hassan, who also met with the Australian officials early this week, said the delayed departure of Steve Smith’s team had been very disappointing.
“There is no risk for them in Bangladesh,” Hassan told reporters Monday.
With the first Test scheduled to start on October 9, Australia’s World Cup football qualifier against Bangladesh in Dhaka on November 17 could also be at risk.