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When children become shield for militants

  • Published at 02:07 pm September 8th, 2017
  • Last updated at 11:36 pm September 8th, 2017
When children become shield for militants
Two innocent brothers, 11-year-old Osama and two-year-old Omar, sons of New JMB financier and member Abdullah, are the latest to join a list of children of Islamist militants who lost their lives after their parents chose death over arrest by security forces. Osama and Omar burned to death on Tuesday night after their father Abdullah blew them up along with himself, his two wives and two other associates inside the flat they lived at a building at Mirpur’s Darus Salam in Dhaka. The fire from the explosions had burnt the children’s bodies so badly that the crime scene unit of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) could not differentiate them from the other five charred bodies at first while recovering them after a 38-hour-long raid. The skulls and burnt bodies of seven were found on Wednesday morning during sweeps by RAB teams in the fourth-floor flat on “Komol Prova” apartment building on Bordhon Bari Road, about 250 yards far from the Darus Salam police station. Afterwards, RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed told reporters: “We did try to find them alive. We showed highest patience to Abdullah and gave him the chance to surrender as we had hoped to at least save the kids.” “Well, we did feel hopeful about getting the kids out alive when Abdullah agreed to surrender. But then he went and set off five bombs inside the flat, killing everybody and starting the fire in the process,” said RAB’s Media and Legal Wing Director Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan. Sabina Akter Tuhin, the reserved seat lawmaker from the area, told reporters that she was shocked when she heard the militant killed himself along with his wives and children. “The father might have been a criminal, but not his sons. The two kids were innocent. So, why they had to die? Was it their fault to be born in a criminal’s family?” Prof Dr Mehtab Khanam, the chairperson of Dhaka University’s educational and counselling psychology department, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Going against human nature to live, people who premeditatedly kill themselves generally show no concern for their children’s wellbeing. “So this is normal for these militants to do something heinous like this when their mission fails. But the militants arrested alive by police need to be examined to find out what drive them to do this.” Stressing concern over such incidents, she suggested: “We must carry out campaigns from all sides against such activities.”

Nothing new for New JMB

Security agencies say that the trend of killing themselves with their own wives and children by exploding bombs is not something new for the Islamist militants, specifically the New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB). On March 30 this year, militants at a hideout of the terror outfit in Moulvibazar’s Nasirpur blew themselves up along with four children, all under 10 years of age, in the face of a raid. Members of the law enforcement agencies were shocked at the horrifying scene when they entered that den after ending the 33-hour-long “Operation Hit Back”. The bodies of four children were strewn around inside that bungalow. They were so badly disintegrated that it was only after a crime scene unit went through the place, it was determined that there were two females, one male and four children there. “There was a big explosion at the beginning of our operation. That was when they blew themselves up, including the children,” said Monirul Islam, chief of Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit. Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, Mukaddes Ali, imam of a local mosque, had only asked: “What kind of Islam is this? How are they establishing Islam through such acts?” On March 16, a child was found dead in another militant den at Premtola in Sitakunda, Chittagong where four militants including a woman blew themselves up during a police operation. Before that, a four-year-old girl named Sabina, suffered splinter injuries when her mother, a female New JMB member, came out of a hideout with her and detonated a bomb during a raid in Dhaka’s Ashkona on December 24 last year. The explosion had broken Sabina’s left arm, and splinters pierced her belly and made some holes in the oesophagus. She underwent a surgery at Dhaka Medical College Hospital and was brought back from the edge of death. On the other hand, New JMB leader Tanvir Qadri had refused to surrender and committed suicide during a raid on September 10 last year on a militant hideout in Azimpur. One of his 14-year-old twin sons Tahrim Qadri was detained during that raid while the other, Afif Qadri, was arrested later. Tahrim confessed before a Dhaka court that their parents - Tanvir and Abedatul Fatema Khadiza - were directly involved in militant activities and he and his brother also got involved by inheritance. Two other children - eight-year-old Junayara alias Pinki and one-year-old Sabiha Zaman - were also rescued during the September 10 raid and later sent to DMP’s victim support centre.

Suicide attacks and trauma

After the Gulshan cafe attack of July last year, which saw the deaths of 27 people including the five militants, law enforcement agencies had started a crackdown on the terror organisations that is still ongoing, Tuesday’s raid at Mirpur’s Darus Salam being the latest. What has not changed among the militants, who are found living in hideouts with their families, security officials say, is their trend to use wives and children as shields while discussing terms of surrender, which generally is a way to waste time as most of the time they commit suicide. “Basically, when there are kids involved, we give the militants the chance to surrender as we want to save the women and innocent children,” said DMP CTTC unit’s Additional Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mannan. But the militants usually use that chance to kill time and prepare a suicide attack, which is such a brutal way to die for the children, he added. Psychologists say such suicidal acts by the militant parents that lead to their children’s deaths during a terror attack or police raid also tend to leave the witnesses and survivors traumatised, specially children who experience the incident up-close. Twenty-one children, who were among 78 residents from Atia Mahal in Sylhet’s Shib Bari area evacuated during an 111-hour-long police raid on a militant den in March, are still traumatised by their memory of the explosions and gunfire. Some of those rescued said they still feel terrified when they think how close they had come to death that day. Parents also expressed concern and doubt while talking about the children’s ability to overcome the fear and trauma.

Islamic scholars weigh in

Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, who leads a campaign of Islamic scholars against militancy, earlier told the Dhaka Tribune: “Children are beyond sides in any war, conflict and ideology in the eyes of Islam and Shariah. “Our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SM) always instructed keeping children and woman away from any unrest or humiliation. Hadith says in many places that children would get Jannat (heaven) if they are killed in any situation. They have no sin.” Masud, who is also the imam of the Sholakia Eid congregation, added: “If anyone uses children as shields in such a heinous manner, they will be punished. This practice of militants is unacceptable. Militancy is not recognised by Islam.” “This is nothing that Islam teaches or even supports,” said Bangladesh Islamic Foundation’s Director General Shamim Mohammad Afzal while talking about the militants using their children for their goals. Shamim told the Dhaka Tribune: “Islam always respects and protects Muslims and other believers. Killing children is unacceptable in our religion.”
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