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Western Retailers Cancel Travel to Bangladesh After Attacks

Two foreign nationals were killed in Bangladesh earlier this month and now concerned Western buyers are canceling trips there to err on the safe side.

Executives from H&M, Inditex and Gap have opted out of trips to Dhaka this month, according to Reuters, and the those in Bangladesh’s $25 billion garment sector are fearful of the potential ramifications to the industry that largely supports the country’s economy.

The Islamic State, an international terrorist group, is claiming responsibility for the attacks that took the lives of an Italian aid worker and a Japanese man. The Bangladesh government, however, has rejected the group’s claim, instead blaming the killings on the country’s rising political violence.

“Our Western buyers panicked after the killing of the two foreigners within five days. Some buyers canceled their visits during this peak time when they are supposed to place more orders,” Siddiqur Rahman, chief of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, told Reuters.

The United States and Canada have called on their diplomats to restrict movements, Britain has issued warnings and business executives from other countries have suggested video conferences instead of in-person meetings in Dhaka because their respective governments have warned against travel there. Reuters said Marks & Spencer stopped travel to Bangladesh for seven days following the news, though travel has since resumed, and Uniqlo parent company Fast Retailing suspended business travel this month and warned its employees there about going out alone.

Bangladesh has reportedly deployed paramilitary soldiers for night patrol and increased security where foreigners live. The country’s Home Minister has said Bangladesh is taking the killings seriously and that the police are close to a breakthrough on the two deaths.

The problem for Bangladesh is that safety concerns already surround its ready-made garment sector and added anxiety about conditions there could send foreign brands into the arms of other low-cost labor locations.

Bangladeshi suppliers reportedly said they didn’t expect the moves to affect orders for the upcoming holiday season.

“If this Islamic State issue persists for long it will not only hurt our businesses, it will destroy the country’s image,” Azim told Reuters. “The government should act promptly to bring the perpetrators to justice and let the world know that Bangladesh is safe.”