Wednesday, March 25, 2009

British-run orphanage in Bangladesh 'is Islamist training camp'

Photo: Local security forces said there were about 11 children between the ages of 7 and 8 at the compound at the time of the raid, but no adults

AN ORPHANAGE run by a British charity in Bangladesh has been raided by local security forces who say that it was being used as a training camp and arms factory for Islamic militants.

The Rapid Action Battalion said today that it had arrested four people, including a teacher and three caretakers, and was searching for the head of the charity, a British citizen known only as Faisal.

The arrests came after a raid yesterday on the Green Crescent madrassa and orphanage on the remote southern island of Bhola, Lt Col Munir Haque, an officer involved in the operation, told The Times.

“We found small arms – about nine or 10 in total – plus equipment to make small arms, about 3,000 rounds of ammunition, two walkie-talkies, two remote control devices and four sets of army uniforms,” he said.

“We also found enough explosives and other equipment to make several hundred grenades. We found some ordinary Islamic books, but others that are in line with extremists like bin Laden.”
He said that there were about 11 children between the ages of 7 and 8 at the compound at the time of the raid, but no other adults.

Locals told the officers that the madrassa, or Islamic seminary, was a British charity financed by “Faisal”, who they said had lived in Britain for 25 years.

Green Crescent’s web site,, shows that it is involved in projects in Bhola, as well as several others around Bangladesh and at least one in Pakistan. The charity, which is registered in the UK under the number 1099233, was founded in 1998 by students in Britain and Bangladesh, and is based in Stockport, six miles from Manchester.

K.M. Mamunur Rashid, another officer involved in the raid, said that the charity had plans to build two more madrassas, although there were no details on the charity’s site.

"It is a big madrassa and we have so far gathered that this whole compound is being used for militant training,” he said.

Bangladeshi media reported that security forces suspected the compound was being used by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned militant group.

Bangladesh, with 154 million people, has the world's fourth largest Muslim population after Indonesia, India and Pakistan.

The authorities have long viewed madrassas as potential recruiting grounds for militant groups such as JMB, which was blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the country in August 2005.

A number of investigations into dozens of Islamic charities were launched this month following a mutiny by border guards, which some officials believe was instigated or assisted by Islamic militants.

More than 70 people were killed, including at least 56 senior army officers, in the revolt last month at the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles in Dhaka, the capital. #

First published in Times Online, March 25, 2009

Jeremy Page is South Asia Correspondent of The Times, London

For more info check this link:

Registered as Charity in Britain: