The April 30 sentencing of four cadres of the outlawed Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to 26 years of hard labor for throwing bombs at a local court in 2005 returned the focus to Bangladesh’s struggle against pressing odds to contain the rise of Islamic extremism (Daily Star [Dhaka], May 1).
The government has been hunting down JMB leaders and cadres ever since the group carried out an audacious series of blasts in 63 districts of a total of 64 across Bangladesh, planting 458 locally-made bombs while distributing leaflets which declared, “We’re the soldiers of Allah. We’ve taken up arms for the implementation of Allah’s law the way the Prophet, Sahabis [companions of the Prophet] and heroic Mujahideen have done for centuries…it is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh” (Bangladesh Observer, August 18, 2005). In the crackdown that followed, two top leaders of the group, Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Sidiqul Islam (alias Bangla Bhati), were executed in 2007; several hundred cadres have also been arrested from different parts of the country. Many of these have since been given tough sentences by a judiciary which was once high on the list of JMB’s potential targets.
Though the crackdown was ordered by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government under pressure from the Bangladesh Army and public outrage, it was the caretaker government run by the Army which saw the increasing clout of groups like JMB as a direct threat to its authority. The Army is deeply skeptical of political parties like the BNP, its rival Awami League (AL) and the ultra-conservative religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), which aligned with the Pakistan Army during the independence struggle and opposed the creation of Bangladesh .
JMB drew its ideological and political support from JeI—both executed JMB leaders Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai were active members—which was the reason why the BNP government, which relies on JeI support, dragged its feet in taking a strong action against religious extremist groups despite credible evidence . Both Rahman and Bangla Bhati were members of Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the student wing of JeI, during their college days and maintained close contacts with JeI leaders .
In fact, Bangladeshi intelligence agencies warned the government back in 2003 about JMB and the threat it posed to the state (Daily Star, August 28, 2005). The group was banned in February 2005 after a key leader—a university professor and ideologue, Dr. Mohammad Asadullah al-Ghalib—revealed the group’s plans to overthrow the civilian government through violence (New Age [Dhaka], February 28, 2005).
Set up in 1998, JMB is one of several extremist and terrorist organizations in Bangladesh waging a fratricidal war against the young nation-state with the aim of establishing an Islamic state. This type of political violence has existed since 1971, when largely Bengali East Pakistan wrested independence from Punjabi-dominated Pakistan. Though substantive evidence of the JMB’s links with global jihadi groups like al-Qaeda has yet to surface, JMB’s transnational terrorist linkages—ideological and material—are evident.
Creation of the JMB
JMB’s founder and spiritual leader was Shaykh Abdur Rahman of Jamalpur district in Bangladesh. Abdur Rahman studied at Madina University and worked as a translator and interpreter at the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka before traveling to Afghanistan to take part in jihad (Daily Star, August 28, 2005). He most likely followed in the footsteps of the 3,500-strong batch of recruits dispatched to terrorist training camps by Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), an al-Qaeda-friendly Deobandi group. His association with HuJI, widely regarded as al-Qaeda’s South Asia arm, could also be noted from his reported links with two foreign—likely Arab—trainers who came to Bangladesh in 1995 to train militants from the Bengali-related Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group fighting for independence from Myanmar (al-Jazeera, April 2, 2007). Rohingyas formed the backbone of the Bangladeshi terror groups often known as the Bangladesh Taliban and had considerable presence in the Korgani town of Karachi, one of HuJI’s key operational headquarters from where it assisted al-Qaeda and other groups. Continue reading “Terrorism-monitor-volume-6-issue-10-the-bengali-taliban-jamaat-ul-mujahideen-bangladesh”