The recent mutiny within the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) border security force sparked concern about escalating instability in Bangladesh.
The possibility that Jamaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) may have been involved in the rebellion heightened worries about the growing terrorism problem in Bangladesh.
A series of events since the 2005 serial bombings point to a steady escalation in the terrorist campaign of not only JMB but also Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam Bangladesh (HuJI-B).
Although dismissed by many as only locally-focused terrorist groups vulnerable to decapitation strategies and lacking transnational linkages and support networks, many in Bangladesh and the region have learned the hard way that both JMB and HuJI-B are formidable outfits that have taken advantage of the government’s security weaknesses to establish firm roots in the country.
Furthermore, they are attempting to employ their own “inkblot strategy” by building their support base and cadre strength district by district. Their goal is to institute a strict interpretation of Islamic law in Bangladesh.
This article will examine the transnational linkages between Bangladesh’s terrorist groups and more violent groups in Pakistan; speculate on whether these groups may move toward suicide attacks, and finally assess what steps the Bangladeshi government should take to undercut and weaken Islamist terrorist groups active in the country.
The senior leadership of Bangladeshi terrorist outfits such as JMB and HuJI-B took an active part in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union.
It was during this time that they came into close contact with individuals who later assumed important leadership positions in militant groups across the South Asian region and beyond.
Bangladesh’s Islamist landscape unexpectedly expanded with a reported resurgence of al-Qaeda-linked Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B—Movement of Islamic Holy War-Bangladesh) terrorist group, which has been lying dormant for over a decade.
On October 2, Dhaka police arrested three senior HuJI-B operatives from the Khilgaon area of the capital city who were reportedly engaged in reviving HuJI-B’s operations in Bangladesh.
The arrested were identified as Mohammad Atikullah, who is in charge of HuJI-B’s international relations, Nazim Uddin, secretary of HuJI-B’s Dhaka operation and Mohammad Burhanuddin, who is in charge of the HuJI-B’s Feni unit in Chittagong.
The investigating agencies have initiated a countrywide search and sweep operation for an additional 30 or more HuJI-B members and sympathizers that came in contact with Mohammed Atikullah, who seems to be the leading financier.
According to police, at least five of them are presently hiding in the capital Dhaka and the rest are in the Chittagong area.
In early March, Dhaka metropolitan police stumbled upon criminal cases, like robbery, that exposed HuJI’s fundraising and gun-running activities in the country.
Despite the decade-long dormancy of HuJI-B, there have been signs of its covert existence in the country.
If key strategists have assessed that the use of suicide terrorism in other conflicts, namely Pakistan, has been successful, it may become a component of a strategy to elicit concessions from Dhaka.
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