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Militant attacks in Bangladesh claim 393 lives in last 11 years

  • Published at 02:00 am July 24th, 2016
  • Last updated at 02:42 pm July 24th, 2016
Militant attacks in Bangladesh claim 393 lives in last 11 years
The number of militant attacks have been on the rise in Bangladesh in the last 11 years. No strata of society is now left untouched, as people from various backgrounds and professions are being included in militant hit lists. According to data from the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 393 people were killed during terrorist attacks in Bangladesh since 2005 to July 17 of 2016. Among these deaths, there were 360 civilians and 33 security forces. In addition, 243 terrorists themselves were killed. The militants themselves are also emerging from various classes of society – earlier, it was considered that only Madrasah-based students were radicalised, but now militants are seen to be also coming from higher education backgrounds and high-profile families. It may be due to this increased diversity that militant groups are now found to be capable of adopting and using modern, cutting-edge technologies to implement attacks. Security analysts think that in order to take effective steps against militant activities in Bangladesh, it is essential to identify the primary reasons behind them. Monirul Islam, chief of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes unit, told the Dhaka Tribune that the trend of militancy in Bangladesh is a direct consequence of global phenomena, as local militants are inspired from global militant activities. In contrast, Prof Dr Zia Rahman, chairman of Dhaka University’s criminology department suspected that the rise of militancy in Bangladesh since the 90s is a result of conflict in internal politics and a main reason for the recent surge has been the trial of war criminals. Prof Zia said that the problem can be resolved if we can address the gaps within our intelligence agencies and bring about changes in social, family and educational activities. Data from the SATP also shows that the first major militant attacks to be reported in Bangladesh were in 1996, where Shanti Bahini rebels abducted 30 Bengali settlers in Rangamati district on September 11 and eventually killed them. Ever since, the frequency of terrorism and the number of fatalities has also risen. Security analyst Maj Gen (Retd) Abdur Rashid said that militant activities first started in Bangladesh, inspired by the Afghanistan-based outfit, Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (Huji). Later, another militant outfit was introduced in the name of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). In response to drives by law enforcers, the militant outfit split to form another militant squad called Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), he said. In 1991, police first arrested a group of Huji members from Cox’s Bazar, although the outfit first came to light in front of the press club on April 30, 1992, through a program they organized. Huji, later, conducted an attack on a cultural program in Jessore in 1999 that left 10 people dead. On April 14, 2001, the outfit conducted another attack during the Bangla new year celebrations. Their attacks continued until 2005. In April, 2004, JMB came to light in Rajshahi. Their first attack was a series of bomb blasts across Bangladesh on August 17 2005. Members from JMB also attacked a court in Jhalakathi, killing two judges. Although Bangladeshi authorities executed JMB’s top leaders Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai in 2007, including six others, they are still in operation. According to law enforcers, the outfit’s latest attack was in Gulshan and Sholakia in July this year. Ansarullah Bangla Team’s presence was found in 2013, after the death of blogger Rajeeb Haider. Investigators discovered later that the outfit was responsible for a number of killings of bloggers and publishers in Bangaldesh. According to sources, the outfit’s initial outreach activities were through spreading leaflets and posters, but now they are using blogs, websites, Facebook and remain in contact with one another through encrypted messaging applications, such as Threema, which was found to be used during the Gulshan attack. Law enforcers are suspecting that local militants may have links with international militant groups, such as Islamic State. Asaduzzaman Miah, commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police however said that they do not have any information to confirm this, but they are not ruling out the possibility of international ties, as investigations are underway. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, however insisted that the militants are local and home-grown and do not have international ties. He said that earlier, the groups used Madrasah students but now, they are giving arms to students from well-off, higher education backgrounds. There is no IS in Bangladesh and those responsible will be arrested soon, he said.