Op-Ed

Concerned over sudden rise of militancy
Shakhawat Hossain
26 Mar,2017

The growing presence of militant activities and bizarre police actions is frightening the people again with new uncertainty as they are trying to forget the shock and the fallout from the attack on the Hole Artisan Restaurant that killed 29 people at Gulshan last year. People are also facing overzealous police actions in full fighting gear.


Last year, people had witnessed police raid at a militant den in Kallyanpur in the city. Moreover, police and RAB also claimed to have killed several masterminds behind the rising militancy in the country including the leaders of the Gulshan attack. But why the danger is not subsiding and rather on the rise again is still a big question.
 
Militant den busted

People also witnessed a bizarre debate in the wake of the rise in militancy in the country whether or not we have the presence of IS operatives in the country. A recent SITE Intelligence Group video post showed a Bangladeshi origin IS militant, who is highly educated and came from Chittagong, has died in Iraq while carrying out a suicide attack. It is not sure whether they have contacts with local militants in Bangladesh while the government is claiming that there is no IS presence in the country.

Five persons, including a woman and a toddler, were killed in a police raid on an extremist den located at a two-story building at Sitakunda in Chittagong on March 15. The police also launched another operation in Chittagong late in the same night, said Chittagong police range deputy inspector general Shafikul Islam. The police were yet to identify the deceased but suspected that the four adults were members of a faction of Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which were earlier led by Canadian-Bangladeshi Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, killed along with two others in an operation in Narayanganj on August 27, 2016.

Site Intelligence Group claimed that Tamim was an Islamic State operative in Bangladesh while Bangladesh counter-terrorism officials said that the faction was inspired by Islamic State. Police recover huge explosives from Sitakunda extremist den. Two of the militants who blew themselves up in their hideout in Sitakunda were identified as cousins who went missing from Mirpur in 2016. Investigators said Rafid Al Hasan and Ayad Hasan went missing on August 9, 2016 last year from their Monipur residence in Mirpur, were among the four died in the bomb blast.
 
Mismatch in statements

Just after one night, an unidentified youth was blown up in a suicide bombing at an under-construction installation of the RAB at Dakkhin Khan in Dhaka on last Friday, prompting authorities to reinforce security at airports and other key point installations. The IS reportedly claimed the responsibility for the suicide blast at the RAB office in Dhaka that also injured two RAB men, IS-run Amaq News Agency reported. The Middle East-based Amaq news agency made the announcement on SITE Intellegence Group website hours after the attack.

A man, who was detained by the RAB last Friday as a suspect of RAB office attack at Ashkona, died in a hospital. The victim was identified as Hanif Mridha, a resident of Amragachhia village of Amtali upazila in Barguna. Airport police inspector Ezaz Shafi said RAB-1 members picked up Hanif from a bush beside Munmun Kabab shop near Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 4:15pm on Friday. Hanif died at Kurmitola General Hospital 1:25 hours after his arrest and an unnatural death case was filed in this connection with the police station at1:35am early Saturday, the inspector said.

While Hanif Mridha who, Rab claimed died in its custody hours after being detained near last Friday’s suicide blast spot at the capital’s Ashkona, his family alleged that he was actually picked up by a group of people claiming to be detectives in Narayanganj’s Siddhirganj on February 27. His friend Sohel Hossain Montu, who was accompanying him at that time, was also picked up, and he still remained missing, Hanif’s family and friends claimed on Sunday. Hanif’s brother Halim Mridha said he filed a general diary with Siddhirganj Police Station on March 4, stating that the two were held in Siddhirganj on February 27.
 
Youth shot dead

Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Huji) was killed in police firing during a raid. An unidentified youth was shot dead by the Rapid Action Battalion as he reportedly violated battalion members’ signal at a checkpoint during his motorcycle riding in the calm area at Khilgaon in Dhaka early last Saturday. Battalion officials said that the young man, aged about 25, in sweater and jeans, was carrying explosives in his backpack, which the battalion later seized and exploded.

In yet another incident, an alleged member of banned militant outfit in Brahmanbaria’s Kasba upazila was killed early on Friday last.

Besides, a suspected Huji member was arrested in Mymensingh hours later. Deceased Tajul Islam Mahmud alias Mama Hujur, 45, is a resident of Sadullapur village in Habiganj’s Nabiganj upazila Counterterrorism officials suspect that “Neo JMB” militants have built their hideouts in Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban and Rangamati districts apart from Chittagong. “The militants have set up dens in those areas as it would help their safe movement through the sea. A plan to recruit Rohingyas could be another reason,” an official of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the DMP said.

In the wake of such attacks and threat by militant outfits, the authority concerned issued a red alert for all international airports and all 68 jails in the country. Security has been tightened at all key points in the capital and many other parts in the country, including bus terminals, launch stations and railway stations. From police headquarters to police stations, the number of law enforcers has been increased everywhere. Members of law enforcement agencies have been put on high security alert to maintain law and order situation.
 
Controversy over raids

Apart from these occurrences, controversies have emerged among ordinary folks about anti-militancy raids of the law enforcing agencies across Bangladesh. Now the point is why such questions are arising. A resident of Dhaka city said on condition of anonymity that it is questioned whether innocent people are being victimized in such raids. Another person said the attack in Ashkona might have been dramatized. These questions are becoming more conspicuous following the death of suspected militants in all these raids. The suspected militants should have been kept alive for proof, another person remarked.

However, law enforcers have dismissed these controversies. They have frequently stated that they raided the real dens of militants and have been able to destroy militants’ network through such operations.

Of course there is no doubt that militants are active in Bangladesh.  Attack on Holey Artisan Café and killing bloggers are glaring instances of militant activity inside the country. Besides, several Bangladeshi youths were reported to have left for Syria and Libya to join Islamic State (IS).

Detectives fear further militant attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the country as around 400 listed militants, including sacked Major Zia, Saleheen, Boma Mizan and Musa, still remain untraced. Many of the fugitive militants are experts in bomb making, throwing high-powered grenades and firing sophisticated arms, detectives said. Some suicide squad members, including female activists of banned militant groups are also on the run, they said.
 
Suspects on the run

According to the police record, a total of 318 cases were filed on charges of militant attacks and attack attempts across the country in which over 1,000 persons were accused in last three years. Of them, about 325 accused, who managed to get bails from the courts, have gone into hiding and still remain undetected, intelligence sources said.  The runaway militant activists include 67 JMB men, 38 Ansarullah Bangla Team men, 52 Hizb-ut Tahir men and 32 Harkat-ul-Jihad men. Besides, members of militant outfits Neo JMB and Ansar-ullah Bangla Team are reportedly are changing their techniques to avoid the surveillance of law and order forces. Several intelligence departments have conveyed this information to concerned authorities.

Some women who were recently arrested have confessed that they support the militant attack on Holey Artisan Café. They believe they are doing jihad. These women are also prepared to give away their lives for radical ideology, police officers have informed.