How Metro Rail almost didn’t happen after Holey attack and how the Sheikh Hasina govt brought it back on track


As Bangladesh jubilantly celebrated the unveiling of another mega project, the much-awaited mass rapid transit ‘Dhaka Metro Rail’, it also solemnly recalled the seven Japanese engineers and consultants who died in the gruesome Holey Artisan Bakery attack in July 2016.

With the launch of a section of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-6 on December 28, 2022, Bangladesh embarked on a new era of public transport with electricity-powered metro rail that will change the way people travel in one of the most congested cities in the world.

A plaque at a newly inaugurated metro rail station honours the seven Japanese engineers and consultants, who were in Bangladesh to set in motion the construction of the Dhaka Metro Rail, and were among those taken hostage and brutally murdered by armed militants on that fateful night of July 1, 2016.

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The terror attack by jihadis of the Neo-JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) raised severe doubts on Bangladesh’s growth trajectory, with security of foreign nationals coming here to supervise overseas-funded infrastructure projects like the Dhaka Metro Rail emerging as a key issue.

The Bangladesh Government, led by PM Sheikh Hasina, bravely kept its focus on development despite the violence unleashed by jihadi radicals, often backed by the country’s Islamists.

Of the foreigners killed in the terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery, two women and five men were Japanese nationals. Only one of the eight Japanese experts in Dhaka for the metro rail project made it out of the Holey Artisan Bakery alive.

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Tomaoki Watanabe, who was hospitalized after being shot, was one of four employees from Almec, a transportation consultancy firm with offices in Manila, Hanoi, Jakarta and Ulan Bator, according to its website. The other three – Yuko Sakai, Rui Shimodaira and Makoto Okamura – were killed.

Okamura’s father, Komakichi Okamura, told Japanese media that his 32-year-old son’s death was “unbearable as a parent”.

Another victim, Koyo Ogasawara, worked for Katahira & Engineers International that has worked on projects in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Read More: Foreign envoys remember those killed in Holey Artisan attack

The other three were working for Oriental Consultants Global. They were identified as Hideki Hashimoto, Nobuhiro Kurosaki and Hiroshi Tanaka.

Japan’s then PM Shinzo Abe, who later died in an attack in Japan, expressed “profound grief and anger” over the deaths of the Japanese nationals in the Holey Artisan attack. “We feel very indignant toward the perpetrators, because these people were working hard for the development of Bangladesh,” said Shinichi Kitaoka, president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Kitaoka called for strong security for all Japanese nationals involved with the metro rail and development projects funded by the JICA.

While terrorists carried out the heinous attack, the opposition rushed to manufacture a scare tactic – that the government had failed to check terrorism and Bangladesh was unsafe for foreigners. The opposition had itself launched violent street protests after boycotting the 2014 parliamentary polls.

Read More: Govt satisfied with Holey Artisan attack verdict: Law Minister

When the government resorted to some tough policing and hit back hard at the terrorists, neutralising nearly the entire top leadership of the Neo-JMB, including its Canada-based chief Tamim Ahmed, the same opposition started blaming the government for “blatant violation of human rights”.

Taking on the colossal challenge of completing the Padma Bridge (despite the World Bank pull-out on corruption charges that could not be proven) and the Dhaka Metro Rail project (despite the terror attack) is thus part of a bigger story for the Sheikh Hasina government.

The government stayed on the development course with single-minded focus amidst numerous challenges.

Read More: FM thanks Japan for support in metro rail, other development projects

Sources in the Japanese government have said that it was Bangladesh’s prompt counter-terrorism response that gave its funding agencies the confidence to carry on the metro rail and other projects in Bangladesh.

At the opening of the Dhaka Metro Rail, PM Sheikh Hasina recalled the tumultuous times in her speech and paid tribute to the Japanese consultants who lost their lives in the Holey Artisan attack.

“Though that attack put the work on hold for a while, finally it started again,” Hasina said, recalling the contribution of then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

These accomplishments have a much bigger message for the world: come what may, come hell or high water, Bangladesh is unstoppable.

Soure: United News of Bangladesh