Bangladesh probes British connection to ‘bomb factory’

March 25th, 2009 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, March 25 (IANS) Bangladesh Wednesday said militancy was a global phenomenon and “could not be a major challenge” as its officers announced they would probe suspected links with a Britain-based charity of an Islamic seminary where a “mini-ordnance factory” was found during a crackdown on suspected militants.
“Militancy is not a problem of Bangladesh only. It exists all over the world but it could not stop the business or investment anywhere,” Star Online quoted Foreign Minister Dipu Moni as saying.

Political analysts said Moni’s response reflected a measure of diffidence in Dhaka to highlight the role of Islamist militancy, fearing that this could send away foreign investors.

Her colleague and Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith had last week accused foreign-funded NGOs and charities of fomenting religious extremism.

Muhith did not name any specific country, but pointed to the “Middle Eastern nations” saying the government would probe the foreign links and audit the accounts of the local bodies receiving foreign funds.

Moni’s disclaimer came hours after the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) unearthed a huge arms cache at the seminary and alleged that a London-based charity was running the Green Crescent Madrassa and Orphanage.

The seminary was opened only 45 days ago on the remote southern island of Bhola, RAB spokesman K.M. Mamunur Rashid said.

The RAB has so far arrested four people, including a teacher and three caretakers, and has launched a hunt for the owner of the charity, a British citizen known by his nickname Faisal, Rashid said.

“It is a big madrassa and we have so far gathered that this whole compound is being used for militant training. The charity also has plans to build two more madrassas in Bhola,” the officer said.

The RAB commander said security officials have found books encouraging Muslims to take up arms, a large cache of weapons, thousands of bullets and explosives.

“It’s a mini-ordnance factory. We have found huge amounts of ammunition and enough equipment to make several hundred grenades and improvised explosive devices,” he said.

Bangladesh authorities have long viewed madrassas as recruiting grounds for Islamic militant groups. The country was hit by a series of coordinated bomb attacks in August 2005.

The seizure comes as authorities investigate dozens of Muslim charities in the impoverished country over allegations they are funding extremists.

The probe is in response to last month’s mutiny at a military base in the capital, in which Islamic militants are suspected to have played a role.

More than 80 people were killed, including at least 56 senior army officers, in the revolt at the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters.

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