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Monday, December 05, 2005

Jihadis threaten to cripple Bangladesh with suicide terrorism

photos: Relatives wail after dear ones died in bombing by Muslim Jihadis threatening Bangladesh secular political and social pattern


by Anand Kumar

Islamists were junior partner in the last Bangladesh election which has brought a ruling coalition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in power. But after hiding for four years in the garb of democracy Islamists of Bangladesh want to establish a government based on Sharia. These Islamists are aware that as of now they can not win enough seats in the parliament to achieve this aim through constitutional amendment. But at the same time they also believe that their cadre base has now become large enough to achieve this aim by terrorizing people. After attacking popular indigenous culture with impunity, Islamists are now taking on the state by their attack on judiciary and other law enforcers. The recent killing of two judges in Jhalakathi and threat to other law enforcers has been with this aim.
The outlawed Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had launched near-simultaneous bomb attacks across the country on August 17 targeting government establishments, mainly the offices of local district administrations and the courts. After the blasts their cadres had left behind leaflets in which they had asked the government to establish Islamic rules or face JMB offensive. In the leaflets, the militants also asked the bureaucrats and judges to stop administrative and judicial works under what they said evil laws of democracy and the constitution.
On October 3, the courts and the judges were targeted once again in another series of bomb blasts in Chandpur, Chittagong and Lakshmipur. Another bomb attack was carried out in the same month targeting a judge, Biplop Goswami, in Sylhet on October 18.

The violent activities of JMB came down as the SAARC summit approached. According to Bangladesh intelligence sources, militants had decided not to strike during the SAARC summit. But immediately after the summit, the outlawed Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) struck again. It killed two senior assistant judges and wounded three others in a suicide bomb attack in Jhalakathi on November 14. The slain judges were Shaheed Sohel Ahmed, senior assistant judge of Nalchhiti upazila, and Jagannath Pandey, senior assistant judge of the Sadar upazila. The attack on the very next day after the summit ended indicated that Islamists were perfectly capable of carrying out such attacks even when the summit was on.

Opposition Awami League Alleges Involvement of the Government
Condemning the killing of the two judges, Awami League (AL) President and Opposition Leader Sheikh Hasina said the militants are back in action after getting green signal from the coalition government. She also alleged that the Islamist militants kept quite during the SAARC summit on the instruction of the government.

The militant, Iftekhar Hasan Al Mamun alias Mamun Ali involved in Jhalakathi bomb attack was held by the locals and turned in to police. He confessed to be a member of the JMB suicide squad. Police also seized an unexploded bomb strapped to one of his thighs along with 24 leaflets of the banned organisation. The bomber revealed that he joined the JMB in 2000 and was subsequently promoted as a member of the suicidal squad. Mamun further stated that he was under the supervision of Rajshahi JMB leader Mustafa and Abdur Rahman was his commander-in-chief. A handwritten leaflet seized from him said, "We don't want Taguti [non-Islamic] law, let Qur'anic law be introduced. Law framed by humans cannot continue and only the laws of Allah will prevail."

Bomber linked to Jamaat
Police investigation further indicated that the Jhalakathi bomber and his family members are closely linked to Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of four party ruling coalition. He was also an activist of Islami Chattra Shibir, Jamaat's student wing. His family members approved of his act. Police also seized several goods including several copies of Al Magajee, JMB's monthly magazine, and many leaflets from their house. The house is located near a mosque-cum-Islami training centre in Dasmari. The mosque received funding by Al Muntada Ali Islami, who has alleged links to Saudi terrorist group al Qaeda. Al Muntada, also widely blamed for channeling funds to local militants, appointed Ershad Ullah, a follower of militant linchpin Asadullah al Galib, as the mosques imam.
The terrorists attack led to abstention from work by judges and lawyers partly to protest the killings and partly for fear of further attacks on members of judiciary.

Threats Issued to other Judges
In a handwritten letter on November 9, the JMB threatened to liquidate Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Samad in Khulna. This letter says: "The JMB does not believe in laws formulated by humans; those who conduct court proceedings by these laws would be killed for the sake of Islam."
An unknown Islamist outfit, Islami Ranojoddha threatened to kill all the judges in Noakhali including Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shahadat Hossain Majumadar. A letter issuing the threat was sent to the DC office on November 13. The outfit denied its link with outlawed Islamist organisation JMB but claimed its operations commander Bangla Bhai stayed in the locality. It vowed to fight unto death to realize Islamic rule in the country.

In separate incidents on November 15, JMB threatened to blow up Patuakhali Judge Court, and a booklet sent by mail to the Rangamati municipality chairman urged the Muslims to establish Quranic Ayeen (Islamic Law) in Bangladesh. The letter also claimed that the outfit has a training camp at Baufal in the district and named Asadullah Galib as its leader and Abdur Rahman as its guru. The booklet sent to Municipality Chairman Habibur Rahman JMB urged the people of Bangladesh to celebrate Independence Day on August 14 terming March 26, 1971 as ' separation day'. It also warned that only Mohammad Ali Jinnah should be honoured as 'father of the nation."

  • The JMB on November 16 sent a 'warning letter' to Sub Judge Karim, threatening to blow him to bits if he does not conduct his court proceedings according to shariah.

  • The Islamist outfit on November 16, in Rajshahi asked two judges in the district -- Senior Assistant Judge Tarik and Assistant Judge Kabir -- to resign if they want to escape death.

  • Anonymous callers on November 16 threatened UNO Sarkar and AC Biswas in Bhola with death and blowing up their offices.

  • Militants on November 17 threatened to bury the law minister alive in Companiganj of Noakhali while in Rajshahi, Jama'atul Mujahideen threatened to blow up the prison if its detained cadres are not freed within 12 days starting from November 20.

  • A Senior Assistant Judge of Jhalakathi MA Awal, who narrowly escaped death on November 14, received death threats on November 20 while an anonymous caller claiming to be a Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) operative threatened to blow up Chittagong Railway Station.

  • A man identifying himself as a JMB cadre on November 20 asked Senior Assistant Judge Umme Kulsum of Chittagong to conduct trials under Islamic laws.

  • JMB on November 21 threatened to blow up the major government offices, courts and all Liberation War memorials in Rangamati if "the law of Allah is not introduced and the Martyred Intellectuals Day or the Victory Day is observed." The JMB's policymaking body Majlish-e-Shura has meantime asked its suicide squad members to fight to death to eliminate those blocking their way and to continue striking the government offices and courts.

  • The JMB on November 21 announced its intentions to blow up the Tangail Press Club, the judge court and the deputy commissioner (DC) office in Habiganj, and threatened to kill journalists in Tangail and the executive engineer of the Sirajganj municipality.

  • JMB operatives on November 22 sent letters to two judges in Munshiganj, threatening to kill them and their families.

  • On November 23 the JMB operatives in Barisal sent letters to five NGOs--NGO Forum, Shayestabad Altruism Institution of Nationwide Task (SAINT) Bangladesh, Voluntary Organisation for Social Development (VOSD), Padokkhep and Disha, threatening to blow them up as the NGOs "do not maintain Islamic code of conduct and are engaged in looting the poor's wealth and taking foreign aids".

  • The JMB suicide squad on November 24 threatened to kill Netrakona superintendent of police (SP) Ali Hussain Fakir along with his family members as he has recently submitted a charge sheet against the cadres of the militant outfit and sought remand of two JMB cadres named Kawser Alam Sumon and Amanullah alias Sanaullah.

Reasons behind Targeting Judiciary by militants
The Islamic militants who are attacking judges have little respect for the judicial system in place now. As the courts are spread all over the country, it is easier for them to attack the judges in their courtrooms. Moreover, the Islamists consider the judiciary as the most obvious barrier to establishing Islamic rules. Without an effective judiciary no state can run. Militants think that once the judiciary is destroyed or rendered ineffective JMB's purpose of sabotaging the entire system of government will be attained. Militants also believe that once the implementation of existing laws is stopped, people will seek arbitration before the persons who want to implement Sharia law instead of going to court. The JMB cadres are also inspired by the example set by Taliban in Afghanistan where they had attempted to destroy the established judiciary before capturing power.

Government Action far from Sufficient
The government ban on Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and arrest of nearly 400 of its cadres in the wake of August 17 blasts has hardly left any impact on the functioning of the terrorist organization. Most of the persons arrested are foot soldiers of the outfit. The JMB leaders of different level especially its top tier, seven-member Majlish-e-Sura, have been successful in evading arrest. The seven members are JMB chief Abdur Rahman, responsible for the entire operation, his younger brother Ataur Rahman Sunny, who was in charge of Dhaka, Abdul Awal alias Ashique of greater Rajshahi, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMB) operations commander Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai of greater Chittagong, Hafez Mahmud of greater Khulna region, Salahuddin of greater Sylhet, Shaikh Tariq of the Rangpur-Dinajpur region.

The Bangladesh police now says that it is hunting for about 2,000 potential suicide bombers from three banned militant groups- JamaÂ’atul Mojahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh JMBB), Harqat-Ul Jihad HuJII). Police believes that many of these militants were trained in Afghanistan under theTalibann and they might be preparing for more attacks after the killing of two judges in the coastal town of Jhalakathi.

The Bangladesh government warned foreign missions on November 24 about the threat of possible attacks by Islamist militants. The warning came as police seized explosives and bomb-making materials, as well as automatic weapons in raids on five hideouts in northwest and southeastern Bangladesh.

Police Gets a Breakthrough but Gains are not Consolidated
The Bangladesh police on November 22 busted the Rangpur hideout of arrested Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) kingpin Abdul Awal and recovered bomb-making materials, combat training books and equipment, a list of future attack targets and cellphone numbers of some 50 police officials. The raid was conducted by a joint team of Nilphamari and Rangpur police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab).

Problem Compounded as Police is Hand in Glove with the Militants
The breakthrough achieved by the police was not used to tighten noose around the Islamists. On the other hand, doubts have arisen regarding the role played by the police. It is now suspected that the police administration itself is working as an informant of the banned Islamist militant group. This suspicion grew stronger as police did not include the JMB hit list recovered from the Rangpur hideout in its seizure list. Moreover, police has been slow in conducting any drive to arrest local militants. They have been mysteriously inactive to launch further drive to detect militant network in the district after its Rangpur hideout was busted. The suspicion of police link to the JMB got stronger as an SP from Nilphamari was given the responsibility of carrying out the operation in Rangpur, bypassing the Rangpur police.

The UK State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Common-wealth Kim Howells who was visiting Bangladesh stated on November 16 that the failure of government to bring to trial the perpetrators behind the grenade attack on British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury and other bomb attacks ultimately encouraged the militants. He reportedly said, "If these people are not brought to justice, others may feel that they can get away with attacks on government officials. We have to find these people and find (them) quickly." However, the Bangladesh State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar still believed that militants have not grown to an alarming proportion. Interestingly, few days later, the minister conceded that the suicide squad of outlawed JMB has added a new dimension to terrorism in the country.

BNP Sacks its Own MP for Anti-militant Stance
The ruling BNP on November 24 expelled its lawmaker Abu Hena from the party for his remarks against the rise of Islamist militants under the direct patronage of a section of the party and the government, terming his statement antiorganizationall. Speaking to media, the lawmaker from Rajshahi had blamed that a section of his party colleagues were patronizing the Islamist militants. He further claimed that “the leaders who support the rise of militants have expelled” him from the party. It is believed that the BNP chairperson and prime minister took the decision to axe Abu Hena from the party in an apparent bid to defuse the grievances of its alliance partner Jamaat-e-Islami.

After attacking parliament members, leaders and activists of Awami League, rallies of opposition parties, mosques, temples, fairs and foreign diplomats Islamists in Bangladesh are now targeting the judiciary so that they can replace the present legal system with one based on obscurantist interpretations of religious law. If Islamists succeed in their attempt it will help them to turn a democracy into a Taliban kind of state. The Bangladesh government is aware of the designs of the Islamists as well as their increasing strength. But, still it appears reluctant to act against them. With the present ruling coalition on the side of the Islamists, it may not be long before the democratic institutions of Bangladesh start crumbling. #

Copyright © South Asia Analysis Group

Source: South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), New Delhi, paper # 1629, published 28 November 2005

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