Dhaka reacts furiously, even at the slightest hint of the presence of al-Qaeda
in its territory. But some recent incidents have put the Bangladeshi government
in a situation where it would be hard pressed to deny this allegation.
Bangladeshi activists owing allegiance to al-Qaeda and Taliban are active not
only inside the country but also in places as far away as
Japan. This increasing influence of al-Qaeda in
Bangladeshi society is a cause for concern to the rest of the world, attempting
to counter the threat of terror.
Bangladeshis, caught recently in Japan, had frequent contacts with Lionel
Dumont, a Frenchman linked by the United States to al-Qaeda. It is believed that
Dumont belonged to al-Qaeda's logistics arm and was engaged in raising funds,
money laundering and forming a terrorist network while hiding in
Japan between July 2002 and September 2003.
most prominent among al-Qaeda allied group, Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) and
its student wing, Jama'atul Mujahidin (JuM) are suspected to be behind the bomb
blast that took place on 21 May at the Hazrat Shahjalal shrine in the Sylhet
town. In this blast three people were killed and more than 100 others were
injured including the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Anwar Chowdhury.
The Deputy Commissioner of Sylhet, Abul Hussain, was also injured in the blast.
It was the second attack on the shrine this year and the first in which a
diplomat was injured. In January, a bomb blast had left five people dead at the
same venue. Security agencies suspected the Principal of the Jameya Madania
Madrasa in Kazirpar, Mowlana M Habibur Rahman, of being responsible for the
blast. Rahman has close ties with the Taliban militia and is reportedly trying
to establish a Taliban-style rule in Bangladesh. But investigations could not
proceed on this line under pressure from certain quarters of the government.
police unearthed a Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami (HuJI) training camp located in the
interior hilly area of Pori-Kup Mulatoli under Hathazari sub-district in
Chittagong district on 1 June and seized 24 inactive AK-47 rifles, sharp weapons
and instruments, and uniforms. Three cadres of the outfit were arrested while at
least 60 of them escaped. The Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdirector of the campÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Mir Anis, who is
absconding is a relative of a state minister and teacher of a local women's
madrassa. The arrested activists disclosed that the madrassa students who
arrived there were trained in the 'Taliban' style in the hilly areas. Some of
them were supposed to go to other countries and many had gone to Sylhet and
training camp of Islamist militants was unearthed in Rangunia sub-district in
Chittagong on the same day and one person, Mohammad Tusher, a former student of
a local madrassa was arrested in this connection. Police seized a firearm and
some training materials from the camp. The law enforcement agencies also
confirmed that several other training camps were active in the hilly areas of
Hathazari. But the government tried to hush up the matter and penalized the
policemen for failing to stop the media from covering both the incidents.
Islamist group Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) is presently active in
the northern districts of Bangladesh. This group too believes in an Islamist
ideology similar to that of the Taliban. In the name of tackling the Maoist
threat, they are trying to push their hidden agenda. The Amir (chief) of this
group is Maulana Abdur Rahman who is also associated with Jama'atul Mujahidin (JuM).
Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai is the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcommander' of the outfitÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
anti-extremist operations. He has visited Pakistan and Afghanistan on a number
of occasions. This group is also active under state protection and enjoys the
blessings of police and at least three ministers.
banned Saudi charity Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation continues to operate in
Bangladesh despite its dissolution in Saudi Arabia on 2 June this year, on
suspicion of funding the al-Qaeda. Bangladesh police had arrested seven Al-Haramain
operatives from its Uttara office in Dhaka in September 2002 after intelligence
agencies reported their links to terrorist funding and trafficking in women and
children under the veil of imparting Islamic education. However, they were
released under 'external pressure'.
connivance of the state has made the job of Islamists much easier. Countries
like the United States are preoccupied with problems in Iraq, Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Hence, they are not able to pay much attention to the growing threat
of groups allied to al-Qaeda in Bangladesh. However, timely action should help
prevent the situation from developing into a crisis.