Wikileaks : Attempt was made on Mujib even before Aug 15: US cable

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By David Bergman 

An attempt was made to kill Sheikh Mujibur Rahman three months before he was assassinated on 15 August 1975, according to a confidential cable written by the US ambassador who was present in Dhaka at the time, which was released on Monday by Wikileaks.
The cable, dated 23 May 1975 and now unclassified, was written by US ambassader Davis Eugene Boster to the US secretary of state Henry Kissinger. 

It states that the embassy had received ‘two reports that President Mujibur Rhaman was target of assassination attempt on evening of May 21’ when he was on his way home after visiting a new TV station on the outskirts of Dhaka. 

The cable said that the primary source of the information about the assassination attempt was the ‘Embassy’s Bangalee political assistant who says he was told by Deputy Superintendent of Police assigned to President’s security unit.’ Another source was a journalist who had also informed the embassy’s information officer that the press was ‘given strict instruction by press information department to suppress story’.

Both sources confirmed that a grenade was used. According to the journalist who spoke to the embassy, two people received injuries but Mujib escaped unhurt.

This cable is one of 1.7 million US state department cables released on Monday by Wikileaks covering the years 1973 to 1976, many of which have already been declassified.

4511 cables were sent from the Bangladesh embassy alone.

In another cable, originally classified as ‘confidential’ and written the day after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated, the US ambassador wrote that while the Bangladesh public ‘had displayed no particular jubilation at the fall of Mujib’ it had faced his death with ‘a calm acceptance, and perhaps some sense of relief.’

The 16th August cable goes on to say that the relative ease with which power was transferred to the new government ‘suggests above all the degree to which Mujib and the Bengalees had become alienated from one another; because of his failure to meet their aspirations and his apparent desire to hold power largely for personal aggrandizement and dynastic reasons, and Mujib from the Bangalees as he grew more isolated from objective counsels and began to suffer the classic paranoia of the despot.’

Boster adds, ‘The quickening tempo of Sheikh Mujib’s efforts since early June to insure his stranglehold on power, together with the growing influence of his nephew Sheikh Moni, doubtless made the coup plotters conclude that no further delays in taking action was possible.’ 

He also says in the 16 August cable that while it may have been totally coincidental that India’s independence day was chosen for the assassination, ‘we note the coincidence’. 

The cable gave the embassy’s first impression of Khondaker Musthaque Ahmed’s new government stating that it was unlikely ‘to arouse any sense of enthusiasm’ as it comprised ‘a collection of overly familiar figures who are identified with the poor administration of post-liberation Bangladesh.’

The ambassador pointed out that the new government composition was ‘clearly’ intended to suggest that it would combine ‘continuity’ along with ‘greater moderation,’ and that there was some evidence that it ‘will want to strengthen its ties with the Muslim world including Pakistan.’
It also pointed out that despite the new president’s ‘well known antipathy to India’, the new regime did not want to arouse ‘undue suspicions on the part of India.’

On the question of the US government’s own relations with the new government, Boster wrote that these ‘could turn out to be on an even more cordial basis that they were under Mujib.’

‘The new president has in the past been strikingly overt in suggesting his “pro-American” attitude; moreover the figures in the old regime who were known for their leftist and anti-American views (Sheikh Moni and Samad for example) are now gone,’ Boster stated.

He said that as the Bangladesh government might seek more aid from the US, ‘our problem may well prove to be one of tempering the new regime’s expectations of us.’

On the question of the relationship between the civilian government and the army – by which Boster said he was referring to ‘younger officers who planned and led’ the coup – the cable, written just a day after Mujib’s assassination, said that right now the embassy was ‘left with the impression that the coup planners prepared for little beyond the event itself.’

He said, ‘The civilians probably have a momentary advantage in light of their experience’ but that ‘we suspect that having tasted blood [the younger officers] will want at the very least to exercise some measure of influence over the course of events.’

The cable concludes by saying that ‘[If] the civilian government falters we may find the military concluding that [it] must again save the nation.’
US ambassador Boster met Sheikh Mujib on 5 August, ten days before he was assassinated. In the cable describing the visit, the ambassador states, ‘The president’s mood was good and, while he has always been friendly in his conversation with us, he was even warmer than usual yesterday.’

Cross Posting :The New Age BD 

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