Law enforcement agencies say homegrown extremist militant outfits are using readily available videos from the Internet to train their recruits in combat, ideology and organising skills.
The videos are widespread even in the world’s largest video sharing website, YouTube.
The Chittagong-based militant outfit Shaheed Hamza Brigade was found to be fully dependent on online videos for the training of its members. The Hamza Brigade members took battle training with the help of these videos in remote hill areas of Banshkhali in Chittagong, said Rapid Action Battalion (RAB 7).
On Tuesday, RAB caught five members of the New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) including engineers who graduated from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) in Dhaka. The group had been taking combat training from online videos of foreign militants, said RAB 10.
A cursory search on YouTube using the terms “jihad training” results in many videos that show militants from groups like the international terrorist organisation Harkat-ul Jihad or the Iranian group Jaish ul-Adl exercising, doing weapons training, battle formations and hand-to-hand combats.
[caption id="attachment_54067" align="aligncenter" width="900"]
A screengrab from a video on YouTube that is labelled with the Harkat-ul Jihad’s insignia and shows masked men undertaking various kinds of militant training. It has been on the site since 2014[/caption]
There are also thousands of videos from the Syrian war, filmed by Al-Nusra Front using GoPro.
The terrorist groups Ansarullah Bangla Team and Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh also use online videos to brainwash lower income and illiterate people into militancy and extremism, law enforcement members said.
Last year the extremist organisation Hizb-ut Tahrir, banned in Bangladesh, conducted an online video conference across the world for its members. Bangladeshi members of the group also viewed the conference, intelligence reports said.
Intelligence agencies and detectives said the extremist groups had been using the Internet to recruit and groom its members due to the absence of government monitoring on the web.
As the government cannot impose any bar over viewing such videos on the web, the militants can easily roam around the virtual world and enrich themselves in the ill-motivated sector receiving massive collection of militant related videos and some others, said sources in BTRC.
Experts say the government should introduce techniques to stop such instigating videos in the same manner that pornographic websites and videos were controlled in the country recently.
Law enforcement sources said the leaders and the top people in these terrorist groups took militant training from abroad by joining international groups in Afganistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other parts of the world. On the other hand, new recruits use the shortcut way of taking training through videos.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit Deputy Commissioner (Cyber Crime) Md Alimuzzaman said: “We often request the YouTube authorities to take down militancy related videos. They sometimes respond to our requests according to their policies.
“We have to introduce a combined system to stop the viewing of such videos.” Most of the videos that the militants or potential recruits were watching were made somewhere else, he added.
“It is rare for these videos to be made in Bangladesh,” he said.
Respective cyber crime units in various law enforcement agencies have done good work on this issue, sources said. But the government should impose strong vigilance on the web by taking different measures, they said.
Bangladesh Police Headquarters’ Assistant Inspector General (Media) Sahely Ferdous told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have plans to ban such videos. It is an ongoing process with the government. Already we talked to Facebook and got a positive response. In the future, we will hopefully contact YouTube and other popular online sites.”
The head of Police Bureau of Investigation, Deputy Inspector General Banaz Kumar Majumder, said: “The practice of using the web is not new for militants. The militant organisations use social media and other websites for their communication and training.
“Although there are no direct restrictions over such media, we are keeping watch on the viewers and arresting those who are involved with militant activities in the country.”
Prof Dr Md Ziaur Rahman, chairman of Department of Criminology at Dhaka University, said such practices are a threat to the country’s security. Although the problem cannot be fully solved, it can be controlled, he said.
Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Secretary Md Sarwar Alam declined to make any comment about the issue.