Australia to seek Bangladesh tour security assurances

Australia to seek Bangladesh tour security assurances

Sydney (AFP) - Cricket Australia said Sunday it would seek assurances from its Bangladesh counterpart before proceeding with the team's October tour, amid government fears that "militants may be planning to target Australian interests".

CA chief executive James Sutherland late Saturday announced that the team's departure from Sydney on Monday would be delayed after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) told him there was a potential security risk to Australians.

CA's head of security was en route to Dhaka to get some "undertakings and understandings of what the situation is there in Bangladesh before we make further decisions," Sutherland told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.

"This is obviously coming very suddenly and we have needed to make this response," Sutherland added.

"Our preferred position is to continue with the tour but the safety and security of our players and staff is the absolute priority and the first priority for us is to secure that."

Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan rejected any security threat as "groundless" and said he was hopeful of the tour going ahead.

"Our country is now secure and there is no scope for rise of any militant outfits. So their report about a security concern in our country is groundless," the minister told reporters in Dhaka.

"We do not have any risk and security problems for local and international matches played in our country," he said.

Bangladesh prides itself on being a mainly moderate Muslim country. But the gruesome killings of a series of atheist bloggers this year rocked the country and sparked a crackdown on local hardline Islamist groups.

Sutherland said the meetings in Bangladesh would start on Monday and stretch over a few days.

"We will then make a judgement on what the likely scenario, in terms of the team's departure or not is, and then make decisions from there," he said.

DFAT said it updated the travel advice for Bangladesh on Friday to state that "militants may be planning to target Australian interests in Bangladesh".

"DFAT is aware of Cricket Australia's decision to delay the departure of the Australian tour to Bangladesh," the government said in a statement Sunday.

"We remain in close contact with Cricket Australia and Bangladesh authorities on this matter."

The updated travel advisory also said: "Australian officials in Bangladesh have been advised to limit their movements in public places."

Bangladesh are due to host Australia for the first Test from October 9-13 in Chittagong and the second from October 17-21 in Dhaka. The Australians were originally scheduled to play a three-day warm-up match in Fatullah beginning on October 3.