Monday, March 14, 2011

Militants and Their Bases in Bangladesh

Although Bangladesh's current government has gone on the offense against militants, according to country's local laws,criticizing Islamists or militants as well writing anything about existence of Jihadists inside Madrassas is still considered to be a "serious crime," and the Bangladeshi government continues prosecuting journalists for anti-Jihadist writings.
Although ecurity experts in Bangladesh all endorse the fact that the country has turned into a huge junction point of people interested in militancy, none of the mainstream political parties ever came to any unanimous agenda of combating militancy. Rather, most of these parties joined hands with Islamists, militants and radicals for the sake of mere political benefit.
Under active patronizage of the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter Service Intelligence [ISI], the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] has been able to build a solid foundation in Bangladesh. The existence and spread of LeT activities in Bangladesh has been continuing for several years; two of its members even said that they had been in Bangladesh for the last 15 years, with the mission of recruiting "members" for this group.
Captured members of LeT told interrogators in Bangladesh that they were provided fake passports by the ISI, and were given training inside hidden bases within the Frontier provinces as well as in Pakistan's occupied portion of Kashmir. The ISI gave specific instructions to the members of LeT, who were sent back to various bases inside Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, to stage offensives on India. The Pakistani ISI intelligence allegedly spends millions of dollars in recruitment, training and the continuation of activities of LeT and other militant groups.
Although Pakistan has always denied any connection with the LeT, in January 2009, US prosecutors accused Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, a Pakistani colonel who retired in 2007, of assisting David Headley, the American LeT operative who had provided surveillance for the Mumbai attacks and planned to attack the offices of a newspaper in Denmark. After the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan detained five military officers, including two serving lieutenants for having been in contact with David Headley.
In November 2009, Bangladeshi intelligence agencies planned a raid on a madrassa located on the hilltop in the Chittagong district. This madrassa is known to be one of the most notorious, breeding Jihadists as well hosting frequent visits by suspicious foreign nationals. When members of intelligence agencies communicated the raid information to local police, however, the police refused to join, stating that such raid would only hurt the religious sensibilities of the locals.
Bangladeshi intelligence were convinced by intelligence communications that a number of militants were hiding inside this madrassa and planning to attack the American embassy, the Indian High Commission and the British High Commission in Dhaka. Five suspected people were arrested from the madrassa, who later disclosed to interrogators its huge international connections as well as expansionist aims. All of the suspects were identified as active members of LeT.
It was a huge accomplishment for Bangladeshi intelligence to understand the very existence and expansion of activities of LeT, as well as other Islamist militancy groups in the country. Any "successful" offensive by these groups would only tarnish image of Bangladesh, the third largest Muslim nation in the world.
During the past year, Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 18 members of LeT, including 4 Pakistanis and 6 Indians. Later, the arrested members of LeT told Bangladeshi interrogators that hundreds of LeT men are hiding inside the country. During the interrogations, one of the arrested militants was identified as an affiliate of Joish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan based Islamist terror outfit, founded by Pakistani national Moulana Masood Azar, and believed to be behind murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002.
During a recent hearing in the US Senate, Admiral Robert Willard, head of US Navy's Pacific Command, said, "Right now our concern is the movement of Lashkar-e-Taiba … and specifically their positioning in Bangladesh and Nepal, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka."
As an example of how he mainstream political parties in Bangladesh have always been shaking hands with either extremist or radical Islamist groups:
During anti government movement in 1996, the Bangladesh Awami League, a party which played important role during country's war of independence, joined hands with Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh [JIB]. Later, during election of 2001, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] formed alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami to win the election.
Before the general election of 2006 [which was postponed due to severe political clashes], the Bangladesh Awami League signed a treaty with an Islamist group, Khelafat Majlish, to establish Sharia Law if elected to power.
Although the Bangladesh Awami League claims to be a party believing in secularism and socialism, its coalition partner Jatiyo Party has a specific agenda in its electoral manifesto, as well as a party constitution dictating strict blasphemy laws to punish critics of Islam.
On the other hand, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which claims to believe in democracy and Bangladeshi nationalism, joined hands with Islamic Oikya Jote [Islamic Unity Alliance] as its partner when it formed government in 2001. Mufti Fazlul Huq Amini, one of the prominent players of Islamic Oikya Jote is an open supporter of Jihad and Jihadists. He also expresses open solidarity towards various Islamist terror and militancy outfit, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Kashmiri militants and others.
After the election, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina officially met a delegation of a Bangladeshi Islamist party led by Mufti Shahidul Islam, arrested on charge of being the mastermind behind bomb attack at Ahmadiya mosque in Khulna in 1999. Mufti Shahidul Islam runs an Islamic NGO, Markajul Islam, which has connections with, and funding from, dubious Afro-Arab sources. Mufti Islam is also known to be a cohort of Osama Bin Laden's. During 1998, he established a madrassa inside the United States with unknown funding from Arab donors with the goal of preaching Islam there.
Since August 2005, Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies are continue to battle Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh [JMB], believed to be under patronage of some people from Saudi Arabia, Iran and African nations. The mastermind of this notorious group, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, was hanged in 2008 for his involvement in militancy, had studied at Medina University in Saudi Arabia; but during his days at Medina University, he had come in contact with various militancy groups and some of the Al Qaeda men, including Ayman Jawahiri and Osama Bin Laden.
According to reports published in Bangladeshi and theinternational media, an Al Qaeda affiliate, Fazlur Rahman Khalil, has been quietly building up terrorist bases in the jungles of Bangladesh. He was continuing such actions under the protection of the military regime in Dhaka, led by General Moeen U Ahmed. The founding leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami in Bangladesh, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, was one of the six signatories of Osama Bin Laden's first declaration of holy war against the United States; a US State Department study reports that Harkat "maintains contact with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan."
It is also alleged that one of the high ranking officials with military intelligence was continuing to patronize various Islamist outfits, including Hizbut Tahrir, Harkatul Jihad and Hizbut Towhid.