The government has declared outlawed Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladesh chapter of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which is responsible for over a dozen attacks on war crimes trial campaigners, secularists and LGBT rights activists in the last couple of years.
The Home Ministry issued a gazette notification in this regard on March 1. Ansar al-Islam becomes the seventh banned militant group of the country.
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Following the decision, Ansar al-Islam members will not be allowed to hold meetings, processions or preach its ideologies. Such activities would be termed anti-state and law enforcers would take legal action under the Anti-Terrorism Act, police say.
The current government earlier banned Ansarullah Bangla Team on May 25, 2015 and Hizb ut-Tahrir on October 22, 2009.
Ansarullah later became affiliated with AQIS that eyes establishing Shariah law in the country.
Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s successor, Egyptian ideologue Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced the formation of AQIS in September 2014 to carry the group’s fight to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and with a special focus on Rakhine state of Myanmar.
The US government blacklisted AQIS as a “foreign terrorist organisation” and its leader, Indian-born Asim Umar, a “specially designated global terrorist” in a statement issued on June 30 last year.
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The previous BNP-Jamaat government outlawed Shahadat-e-al Hikma on February 9, 2003, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) on February 23, 2005, and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (Huji) on October 17, 2005.
Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibilities, through Twitter, Telegram channels and other websites, for 13 attacks between January 2013 and April 25, 2016, in which 11 war crimes trial campaigners and secularists were killed while five others sustained critical injuries.
Police have arrested a number of top leaders of the outfit, but its alleged operations chief Maj (sacked) Syed Ziaul Haque and spiritual leader Tamim al-Adnani have remained traceless.
Detectives caught three most wanted leaders of the group out of six last year. Another trainer was killed in a gunfight the same year.
A death-row convict in Rajeeb murder case, Redwanul Azad Rana, was arrested last month in Dhaka. A former leader of Islami Chhatra Shibir, Rana is described by the police as a key organiser of Ansar al-Islam.
The group made its first claim on May 3, 2015 after their supporters hacked to death six people including blogger Ahmed Rajeeb Haider and science writer Avijit Roy. Earlier the group was known as Ansarullah Bangla Team.
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The spiritual leader of Ansarullah (now Ansar al-Islam), Jasim Uddin Rahmani, was arrested on August 12, 2013 for inciting jihad at mosques. Later he was removed from the post of chairman of Markazul Uloom Al-Islamia Madrasa’s management committee at Basila in Mohammadpur.
On December 31, 2015, Rahmani was sentenced to five years in prison for inciting the murder of Rajeeb Haider while two of his followers to death and four others to different jail terms for their involvement in the murder that took place on February 15, 2013.
Rajeeb was an active member of Shahbagh movement, an unprecedented event waged by some youths at Shahbagh intersection demanding death penalty for all war criminals and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami. The movement soon spread throughout the country while Bangladeshis abroad also expressed solidarity.
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The trials of Ansarullah militants for the attempted murder of blogger Asif Mohiuddin and the murder of secular activist Oyasiqur Rahman Babu are currently under way.
Moreover, a Sylhet court recently ordered the police to re-investigate the murder of secular writer Ananta Bijoy Das since the first charge sheet had flaws.
Police have also pressed charges in Prof AKM Shafiul Islam murder case.
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Apart from preaching murder of atheists for demeaning Islam, Ansar al-Islam has lent support to hardline Islamist platform Hefazat-e-Islam's 13 points including their ongoing movement demanding the removal of the Lady Justice status on the Supreme Court premises and the Rohingya militants in their armed jihad against the Myanmar government.
Ansar al-Islam earlier extended support to Harakah al-Yakin or Faith Movement, a like-minded Rohingya-based militant group that attacked three border outposts of Myanmar as part of their armed jihad on October 9.
In a public statement issued on December 15, al-Qaeda urged the Muslim youths of Bangladesh to join the fight to avenge the persecution against Rohingyas.
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Its members are campaigning against the indigenous peoples of the country’s CHT region terming them terrorists. They incited further attacks on the Hindus of Nasirnagar in Brahmanbaria last year during a discussion on Dawahilallah, an open forum of AQIS.
A senior US military official last month said that their government was “concerned about the instability in Bangladesh,” caused due to “a lot of AQIS interference.”
“Yes, they [AQIS] have a regional agenda, but this region is very important to the United States … In this Shorabak objective, there were congratulatory notes going back and forth about some of these activities in Bangladesh. There is a linkage to core al-Qaeda,” General John W Nicholson, who serves as the commander of Resolute Support and US Forces in Afghanistan, said.
“Of course, al-Qaeda is very focused right now on the survival of their senior leadership, but they are connected to these guys as well. They all share the same agenda and the same focus,” Nicholson said in an interview with the Counter Terrorism Centre website.
[caption id="attachment_50697" align="aligncenter" width="764"] Source: SITE Intelligence Group website