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Bangladesh and the terror
  • Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh
    Sheikh Hasina Wazed, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh
As Sheikh Hasina is preparing for India visit, her country is in grip of terror unleashed by a new strand of the Salafi Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB). The JMB says the system of government in the country does not conform to Allah’s system. It says it will launch an armed struggle against the present system of government, its – constitution, intellectuals, non-Muslims and cultural activities. The new strand of JMB is described as neo-JMB – more radical and more blood thirsty. The neo-JMB commits acts of terrorism and the Islamic State (IS) claims these heinous crimes against innocents and non-combatants, to assert its presence in Bangladesh despite the Hasina government’s frequent denials thereof. In the past more than two years a large number of bloggers, non-Muslims and secularists have been butchered with hatchets. The IS claimed the responsibility. The government of Bangladesh however, maintained it was the work of local goons for political objectives hinting thereby that the opposition was behind these killings.

An unspecified number of Bangladeshis have fled to Syria to fight for establishing a Khilafat along with the IS. Among them was Australia-educated Niaz Morshed Raja of the port city Chittagong, who disappeared in 2015 and was suspected to be involved in the terror attack on July 1 last year on Holey Artisan Bakery at the posh locality of Gulshan in Dhaka. Twenty two people, 17 of them foreigners, including one Indian girl were killed. The police subsequently killed JMB’s commander, a military trainer called ‘Maj Murad’. The Holey Artisan Bakery terror shocked the world. It was learnt that neo-JMB, under the influence of the IS, was behind it. Its main target were said to be the foreigners who frequented this cafe.

The neo-JMB again came into news on the 24th of last month when its terrorists holed themselves up in a five-storey building in Bangladesh’s north-eastern town of Sylhet and threw explosives on people when the Army commandos stormed the building. With those explosive devices they killed at least eight civilians and injured more than 20 people. The top leader of neo-JMB called Musa, was killed in the Army’s response codenamed “Operation Twilight”. It was a long operation which eventually culminated with neutralisation of all the terrorists. At the same time a young suicide attacker blew himself up at the International Airport in Dhaka, a week after a similar attack on a camp of Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hassina’s government is toughly responding to Islamic terrorists but she needs active help from those who swear for the liberation of their motherland. The government keeps on denying the existence of the IS in Bangladesh. But that is no cause for either consolation or complacency. Terrorism in the name of Islam has become global which does not respect boundaries. It believes in forming a universal pro-active terror fraternity, something not displayed by those who swear by secularism and nationalism. These people feel they have done their duty by shouting slogans against what they call the government’s failure to protect people’s life from terrorist attacks.

The denial of the existence of the IS in Bangladesh does not deny the existence of the network of home-grown militants who share and practice the terror ideology of the IS. The neo-JMB is one of them. It is said to have links to the IS, which claims its terror activities through its propaganda news agency “Amaq”. There are other groups many of whom also hide in the Chittagong Hills. One may remark that, when the US-led allied forces bombed out the Taliban administration in Afghanistan in 2001 to flush out Al-Qaeda terrorists, many of them were shipped to Chittagong by the Pakistani security establishment to avoid US search operation for them in Pakistan, Chittagong thus has came to be known as a den of different terrorists groups. The neo-JMB is among one of them. Its operational leader Musa, who was killed by the security forces, had lived there. An article in The Dhaka Tribune, says about 500 JMB activists hide in Chittagong city. On March 16 the police ended a 20-hour siege of two dens in Chittagong where bombs were made.

If observed these developments carefully, it could be concluded that the neo-JMB terrorists had fled Dhaka in the face of action of the security forces after the July 1 carnage in Gulshan. The Sylhet attack on March 24 shows they had regrouped for terrorist activities. Now the law enforcement agencies fear this organisation may target country’s commercial centres. A professor of Criminology at Dhaka University might be targeted for its economic and geographical importance, but it was not their only choice. For terrorists the importance of traditional madrasas as recruiting fields has been much reduced by the advent of modern information technology. With the help of social media they try to recruit best brains from modern schools, colleges and universities. In turn, these new recruits influence students and young impressionable minds at posh educated homes in favour of Jihad. This is how the IS and Al-Qaeda are getting recruits all over the world. After the IS entered in to the global arena of in the name of Khilafat, terrorism has become more of a thrilling, adventurous, killing sport than the so-called Jihad. There is no surprise that the top leaders of neo-JMB or for that matter any terrorist organisations in Bangladesh, are educated or over foreign educated. They have to be fought more with brains than with police action.

In this long fight against terror, both Bangladesh and India have to share their common concern and enrich each other with their Counter-Terrorism experiences. A more vigorous and comprehensive Counter-Terrorism cooperation should be the most prominent outcome of the current visit of Bangladesh premier to India.
Samuel Baid