Interview: Antonio Alessandro

Holey Artisan attack hasn’t hampered historical friendship of Bangladesh-Italy

Nine Italian citizens were killed in the militant attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in the city’s Gulshan area. In an interview over email with Prothom Alo’s diplomatic correspondent Raheed Ejaz, Italian ambassador to Bangladesh Antonio Alessandro recalls the incident and speaks about the bilateral relation with Bangladesh.

Prothom Alo:

People were shattered while the tragic incident of Holey Artisan Bakery occurred eight years back. It was unprecedented in Bangladesh, particularly killing of friendly nationals of India, Italy, Japan and the US. How do you see the terrorist attack?

It was a heinous terrorist attack originating from extremism and radical ideologies whose aim was to spread fear and hate among different peoples. They did not succeed.

Bangladesh is known for the kindness of its people and its welcoming approach to all cultures. Both local and expatriate communities reacted effectively against that season of violence.

All together we have been able to overcome it and build even stronger ties. We now look with confidence to the future.

Prothom Alo:

How did Bangladesh and Italy overcome that tragic episode of moving ahead through various aspects of bilateral cooperation?

Italy was one of the first countries to recognise an independent Bangladesh, back in early 1972. Since then, our relations have grown fruitfully in all sectors.

The Holey Artisan attack did not hamper this historical friendship. On the contrary, it reinforced the will of both countries to cooperate against violent extremism and seize all opportunities to expand business and people-to-people relations.

Prothom Alo:

Despite close ties between the two countries, a peace-loving mindset, it was surprising why Italians were attacked in the terrorist attack.

We do not believe that Italians were specifically targeted. The fact that a group of Italian expats happened to be there at the wrong moment was a tragic coincidence. I take this opportunity to honour the memory of the nine Italian victims as well as to express my solidarity to their families and friends and to all those who were affected regardless of their nationality, including the police forces of Bangladesh.

Every year on 1 July the embassy holds a ceremony to remember all victims and reflect upon peace, dialogue and mutual understanding. This year the ceremony will be attended by foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen and the director general for Italian citizens abroad and migration policies, Luigi Maria Vignali, visiting from Rome.

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Prothom Alo:

The law and order as well as the security situation has been improved recently. In the context of trade and investment, is Italy considering enhancing security cooperation between the two countries?

We have traditionally maintained very good relations with Bangladesh in defence and security matters. Several training courses for police and security officials have been exchanged over the years. We want to enhance these activities and continue to contribute to the upgrading and modernisation of the Bangladeshi defence forces, which are also a major asset for the UN peacekeeping system.