Since the August 17 countrywide synchronised bombings by Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in 2005, a new generation of terrorists have spawned but there has been no change in government tactics to deal with them.
While educated and tech savvy persons are incorporated into emerging terror organisations, law enforcers keep on fighting radicalism only in old ways — capturing militants and throwing them in prisons — without closing down their breeding grounds.
In many madrasas, youths are fed with wrong interpretation of Islam and thus pushed towards militancy. Outfit leaders are motivating people from jails and hideouts. Arrested terrorists are often bailed and resume activities, observe officials involved in counterterrorism.
It was in 2005 when banned militant outfit JMB blasted bombs in 63 districts, killing two persons and injuring more than 400, to draw people’s attention to its organisational strength and mission to establish Sharia law in Bangladesh.
Over the years the organisation has changed its strategy and started collaborating with new groups.
Last month’s arrest of some JMB operatives over a bank robbery in Ashulia and last year’s snatching of two condemned JMB leaders from a police van at Trishal prove the organisation is fully operational and a matter of concern for law enforcers.
“The JMB doesn’t have the organisational strength like that in 2005 following the arrest and execution of its top leaders. But it doesn’t mean the organisation has become very weak. The outfit is still active in different areas under different names,” said Tangail Superintendent of Police Mahfuzur Rahman, who has years of experience in dealing with militancy.
To nutralise the radicals and prevent youths from being lured into militancy, he said, “There is no alternative to launching a massive de-radicalisation campaign socially, politically and religiously.”
Such a campaign was launched in 2009 involving imams, teachers and media persons but it fizzled out within months, apparently for the government’s lack of political will.
The Detective Branch of police alone arrested 166 suspected militants of different outfits since January 2014. Most of the arrestees were in leadership positions with expertise in information technology and explosives.
Apart from police, the Rapid Action Battalion hunts for militants.
But, officials observe, the lack of coordination and intelligence sharing among the agencies is rendering the fight ineffective, leading to failure in tackling new generation of terror organisations like Ansarullah Bangla Team and Hizb-ut Tahrir.
“The killings of bloggers one after another and the failure in tracking down the killers prove that the evil forces are well ahead of us,” a police officer said, seeking anonymity.
“Ansarullah Bangla Team has turned out to be the most dangerous of the terrorist bodies… It is now a real threat,” he added.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of police officers involved in counter-militancy drives, said not trying the arrested militants has become a major setback in fighting the elements.
They said the militants sentenced to death could not be executed as they are accused in dozens of serial bombing cases and the trials are yet to be completed.
“From jails, the convicted terrorists are playing a big role in spreading militancy. They even meet their followers as they are frequently being shifting from one jail to another for case hearings,” one of the officers said.
Prof Ziaur Rahman, chairman of Dhaka University criminology department, said only arrest could not wipe out terrorism. He said awareness campaigns in educational institutions and reform curriculum in Qawmi madrasas were crucial in fighting a force that is working in a well-planned manner.
In the last 10 years, more than 400 militants were arrested — most of them JMB operatives. So far, 478 JMB men have been tried in 185 cases. Of them, 51 top leaders of the JMB were sentenced to death, 178 given life term and 245 jailed for different terms, official records show.
Source: The Daily Star