Islamist militants ‘regrouping for attacks’ in Bangladesh? (Lead)

June 12th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 12 (IANS) Right-wing militants have regrouped across Bangladesh over the past year, consolidating their networks and conducting training and indoctrination operations looking for a suitable opportunity to strike, a non-official study released here has warned. The “2007-2008 Trends in Militancy in Bangladesh” report, by the non-government Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI), blames the spurt in militancy during the last decade on the politicians providing shelter to the militants for their political ends.

It said while there had been five to six bomb attacks a year between 1999 and 2006, the execution of the six Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) kingpins last year partly resulted in a fall in terrorist attacks.

It, however, said reports of bomb explosions and bomb-making cells indicate that militant groups are once again organising themselves for terrorist attacks — only waiting for the opportune moment.

The report said the (JMB) militants who managed to remain at large after the 500 synchronised bomb explosions across the country on Aug 17, 2005 have regrouped and launched recruitment drives.

A part of the JMB now operates under a changed name, Allah’r Dal, which is active in Bangladesh’s south-western region in Kushtia, Meherpur and Chadanga, bordering India’s West Bengal.

They are reportedly holding public meetings, raising funds and running recruitment drives in Gaibandha, The Daily Star newspaper said Thursday.

The report said the outfits are handing out propaganda leaflets, CDs, books and handbills in their drive for new cadres, occasionally using coercion to that end.

“They are inviting people to join JMB and trying to motivate innocent villagers in the name of Jihad to establish Islamic rule in the country.

“Villagers are called kafirs (non-believers) if they refuse to listen to the militants,” the report said.

It feared that militants could attempt to destabilise the elections, adding that the recent Maoist victory in Nepal may embolden both leftist and rightist militancy here.

In recent months, militants have attempted to spark revolts in jails or made numerous breakout attempts.

In the last ten months, 245 militants have been arrested: 145 of them were ‘Islamist militants’ — of whom, 45 were members of the Hizbut Towhid, 35 belonged to the JMB, 25 were from the Harkatul Jihad (HuJi) and 23 from the Allah’r Dal.

Seventeen militants — seven of them belonging to the JMB — were sentenced to death in the same period. Eighty-six others were sentenced to varying prison terms by speedy trial tribunals.

Islamist militancy gained momentum in Bangladesh in 2001, during the parliamentary elections that coincided with the terror attacks in the US and the campaign that followed in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government (2001-06) for long denied the existence of these groups and their kingpins like Siddique-ul Islam alias Bangla Bhai who were convicted and hanged for killing two judges.

The Zia Govenmernt moved to proscribe them only after protests at home and criticism in the West, especially in the US Congress.

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