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Monday, January 02, 2012

BANGLADESH: Terror Funding Continues Unabated


Under the Prime Ministership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladeshhas undoubtedly cracked down on the jehadi brand of terrorism as well as terror outfits that have been needling India for years. But Dhaka may have to do more tomake these efforts more effective.

Militant organizations such as Jama’tul MujahideenBangladesh (JMB) or Harkat ul Jehad Islam (HUJI) have now been banned but theyhave not been liquidated. Another set of leaders have taken over. Some trainingcamps continue to impart both ideological and arms training. Mere banning ofthe radical groups has not seared the purpose. A top ranking JMB commander Mustafizur Rahman Shaheen who was recently arrested said during interrogation that JMB has not at all been liquidated with its banning, or with execution ofits topmost leaders Abdur Rahman and his deputy Bangla Bhai. He disclosed thatJMB cadres were operating across the country under various banners with the mission to stage Islamic revolution.

The JMB, HUJI and the rest of Islamic terrorist networkin Bangladesh were spawned by the al Qaeda and Taliban jehadis. They were trained by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan-based major terror outfit Lashkar e Toiba (LeT). None of the umbilical cords has been cut for good. As many as twenty local and foreign NGOs including al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) have been financing radical Islamic groups JMB and HUJI. In addition, huge funds regularly pour in every month from two Pakistani militant leaders Sajedur Rahman and Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim. These two Pak militant leaders send money through Hawala channel toJMB chief Maulana Saidur Rahman. This information has been revealed by Maulana Saidur Rahman who was arrested on May 26, 2010.

JMB chief Saidur Rahman also disclosed that the JMB activists learnt operational tactics of hitting multiple targets simultaneously from the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, from whom they also acquired techniques for manufacturing explosive devices and arms. He also said that the JMB follows alQaeda’s ideology and works to expand and strengthen al Qaeda’s base in Bangladesh. Information about location of JMB suicide squad members was disclosed by JMB military wing chief Boma Mizan and Zaved Iqbal @ Mohammad bothof whom were arrested ahead of Saidur Rahman’s arrest.

Saidur Rahman disclosed that bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) has been offering financial assistance to JMB and HUJIregularly as part of its worldwide endeavour to assist all pro-al Qaedaoutfits. He admitted that huge funds were provided by IIF to JMB when theformer was apprised of the latter’s plan to carry out countrywide synchronized bomb blasts in Bangladesh and deployment of suicide bombers at strategic pointsin August 2005. Saidur Rahnan, who was former Habiganj District JEI Amir, also said that apart from IIF, JMB has also been receiving funds regularly from 20local and foreign organizations including Saudi based World Assembly of MuslimYouth (WAMY), Rabeta-al-alam-al-Islami, Kuwait based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, International Federation of Islamic Organizations, IslamicWorld Committee, Qatar based Charitable Society and UK based Muslim Aid. Healso said that in 2008 the two Pakistan militant leaders Sajedur Rahman andHafiz Mohammad Ibrahim sent US $ 42 million for JMB through hawala channel. 

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner A K MShahidul Haque said that militant organizations regularly receive funds from expatriate Bangladeshi community settled in the US, Europe and Middle Eastcountries. Money is mostly received through ‘hundi’ from these countries.

The intelligence agencies of the country have found that Jamaat-e-Islami(JEI) even now works as a conduit of foreign funds. Funds are received regularly from Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Libya based NGOs to the JEI accounts in the Islamic Bank of Bangladesh and then handed over to other pro-alQaeda outfits in the country. This enables the party to indulge in money laundering and inciting the militants to take part in violent activities. The party had a plan to resort to serious violence during the last elections and made it clear to its cadres that some parliamentary seats including those of JEI Amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, Delwar Hossen Syeedi and Shahjahan Chowdhury must be won at any cost, including assassination, if so needed. The party had also planned to resist Awami Leagueat any cost as victory of AL in elections would spell disaster and result invirtual decimation of JEI. But this plan did not succeed as the Army-backedinterim dispensation that conducted the elections stood on the way affirming that no electoral malpractices or violence would be countenanced leniently.

Internationally banned Islamic NGOs linked to terror funding were functioning in Bangladesh. These NGOs like the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), Al Harmain Islamic Foundation (AHIF) and Benevolence Society based in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Pakistan were directly linked with financing activities of the Islamic radical groups. Two RIHS officials,one from Sudan and the other from Yemen, were deported in 2006 for having channelized from Bangladesh over US $ 700,000 to local and foreign terrorist organizations. RIHS was forced to close its operations in Bangladesh thereafter.Earlier, Bank accounts of RIHS in Pakistan were sealed for its al Qaeda links. Another Islamic NGO Al Harmain Islamic Foundation had to wind up its operationsin Bangladesh under US pressure as it was suspected to have funded the 9/11 alQaeda attack on Twin Tower.

Even former Finance Minister Saifur Rahman said that anumber of bank accounts in Bangladesh were under investigation for illegal transactions. Activities of the Islamic radicals will continue unabated until the sources of funds and patronage are identified and choked forever.

First published in South Asia Analysis Group, Paper no 4838, January 1, 2012

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