Cricket Australia (CA) postponed its team’s two-Test tour of Bangladesh on Thursday, citing terrorism fears after official warnings that militants may attack Western interests.
Cricket Australia said that advice from the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and CA’s Head of Securitycountry’s security about an increased risk for the team meant this month’s matches could not proceed.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said an independent security assessment confirmed the “risk of terrorism in Bangladesh targeting Australian nationals.”
“We have decided that, regrettably, we have no alternative but to postpone the tour,” Sutherland said.
Australia had been scheduled to depart on Sunday for the first Test starting on October 9 in Chittagong. Bangladesh had tried to keep the tour alive, insisting that the players would 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.
“We’re very disappointed. We’ve offered the highest and unprecedented level of security to the Australian team, which is generally provided to a visiting head of state,” said Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus.
However, the death of an Italian aid worker in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter -- shot three times on Monday night in a murder claimed by Islamic State group -- only escalated fears.
“We had hoped that the security concerns would fade, but unfortunately the advice we have received from government, our own security experts and independent security advisors has clearly indicated that there are now high risks to our people should they make the trip,” Sutherland said.
“We have worked tirelessly to try to find a way for the tour to proceed, but in the end it was simply not possible,” he said.
CA said it would work with the Bangladesh Cricket Board to try to reschedule the tour.
“Bangladesh is clearly on the rise as a cricketing nation and our new-look Australian team was looking forward to the challenge of playing this series. The circumstances that led to the decision to cancel the tour are bigger than the game of cricket,” Sutherland said.
“Where there are elements that are beyond our control - as there are in this case - the importance of player safety is brought sharply into focus, and this is absolutely paramount.”
International schools in Bangladesh were closed on Tuesday while Western embassies restricted their diplomats’ movements. The British Foreign Office warned against attending gatherings of westerners in Bangladesh due to “reliable information” militants may be planning to target Westerners. The US embassy in Dhaka said its diplomats would be barred from attending international hotels and advised citizens to follow suit.
Bangladesh sees itself as a moderate Muslim country. But the gruesome killings of four atheist bloggers this year rocked the nation and sparked a crackdown on hardline Islamist groups.
The security scare also spilled over to soccer on Thursday with Australia’s football chiefs announcing their own concerns about playing in the South Asian nation. Football Federation Australia (FFA) officially notified Fifa of their security fears.
The group-topping Socceroos are due to take on Bangladesh in Dhaka on November 17.
“FFA is concerned about the security situation in Bangladesh,” it said.“FFA has formally raised the matter with Fifa and AFC (Asian Football Confederation).”