Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Profiles of Terror

Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has carried out strings of suicide bombings four years ago, is regrouping; to make it even worse a few more terror outfits it seems are at work in the country

On November 29, 2005, a small, wiry young man went into the Gazipur courthouse at around 10 in the morning with a parcel in hand. Within a minute the youth, who was later identified as Abdur Razzak, made his small grisly place in the country’s history by becoming Bangladesh’s first suicide bomber. Razzak killed himself and on his way to martyrdom killed two more persons. The attack was a simultaneous one: Abul Bashar, another bomber, also in his late teens, blew himself up a few yards into the 102-years old Chittagong court building, killing two bystanders and maiming a few hundreds. Bashar survived for two more days to succumb of injuries.

The birth of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has taken place under the eyes of Bangladesh Nationalist Party led Four Party Alliance government (FPA) that ruled the country from 2001-2006. In the first three years of its rule the FPA regime denied the presence of the outfit with a minister calling it ‘a figment of the media’s imagination.’ When Siddikul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, one of the militant masterminds, formed Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, which is believed to be a sister organisation of the JMB, the law enforcing agencies helped him by giving him shelter. Khaleda Zia, the then Prime Minister, was famous for seeing conspiracy behind anything that she found unpleasant in her rule. The gruesome photographs of a man beaten down to death by Bangla Bhai’s goons after being hung upside down from a tree did not prompt Khaleda take any action against the terror outfit.

It was after the terrorists had planted 63 bombs in the district headquarters of the country that the then government launched a war on the JMB. At the fag end of the FPA government’s term both the top leaders of the terror group were arrested and the previous caretaker government executed the death penalty that the highest court had handed them down. Even though the group has been thought to be on the run, some recent arrests of the members of the group suggests that the JMB is regrouping and is ready to launch a new offensive.

Arrests made on the 14th of this month in Sarikandi of Bogra district have produced revealing information: on the remote islets of the river Jamuna such as Bhatkhewor, the group has set up numerous training grounds. The JMB, in the run up to the last year’s general elections, threatened to carry out terrorist attacks on the election day. Discovery of huge caches of homemade grenades in a house in Mirpur rented by the JMB operatives prove that the group has not lost its operational capabilities and is readying itself to unleash another mayhem soon.

Another homegrown trade outfit is the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HuJI). Established in 1992 by Afghan War I veterans, the group is well connected with international terror organisations. In fact, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (Arabic for The Islamic Struggle Movement), its mother organisation was founded in 1984 by Fazlur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar during the Soviet-Afghan War. Khalil later broke away to form his own group Harkat-ul-Ansar. Upon his arrest on October 1, 2005, the HuJi’s Bangladesh operational commander Mufti Abdul Hannan confessed to have carried out grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2005. Following his statements the Speedy Trial Tribunal-1 in Dhaka framed charges against detained former BNP MP Abdus Salam Pintu, Hannan and 20 others in two cases filed for grenade attacks on the AL rally.

On May 8 last year, Hannan and two more HuJi operatives were sentenced to death for carrying out a grenade attack on the then British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury in May 2004. The Sylhet Divisional Speedy Trial Tribunal also awarded life terms to two other accused in the case - Mufti Hannan's brother Muhibullah alias Muhibur Rahman alias Ovi and Mufti Main Uddin alias Abu Zandal. After Hannan’s arrest the HuJi is regrouping and it has been said that in the future the group can work with the JMB or any other like-minded outfits.

DROP

Last week, in a raid in the deep forest of Rwachaungchari Upazila in Bandarban, Bangladesh Army has arrested Kyan Maung Marma and Ko Oo Sein and has recovered one M-16 with a grenade launcher, one M-16, one SAR, and one Chinese-made semi-automatic rifle. The men are members of the Democratic Party of Arakan, a Myanmarese insurgent group which is infamous for its brutal tactics. The presence of DPA and any other such insurgent groups is alarming. The government needs to do its best to flush them out if any such group exist on our soil.

Bangladesh for its unique location on the tip of Bay of Bengal and its border with insurgency prone northeastern India and Myanmar can become a lucrative place for hiding for foreign insurgent groups. The country’s southeast has just recuperating from a bloody insurgency that lasted for over two decades. It is still fighting its own war on terror; the sub-continent is increasingly becoming a dangerous place in which to live. A task force (TF) is necessary to handle the issue and it can coordinate intelligence, make contingency plans in case there is big terrorist attack and can also make people more vigilant about terrorists in their neighbourhoods. Fighting terrorism is indeed a tricky business. Pre-emption is the key as there is no room for failure.