The number of raids was few; according to law enforcement officials focusing on counter-narratives, de-radicalization and awareness programmes to curb the militancy alongside regular activities is helping the country tackle the problem
Militancy activities and busting of militant hideouts one after another, following the gruesome attack at Holey Bakery in Dhaka in 2016 continued till 2018, but there were no major incidents in 2019. The number of raids was few; according to law enforcement officials focusing on counter-narratives, de-radicalization and awareness programmes to curb the militancy alongside regular activities is helping the country tackle the problem.
In 2019, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) unit of the police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) carried out over a hundred raids in militant hideouts. The raids saw two militants dead with suicide bombs, and over 300 militants representing different organizations being arrested.
Despite the fact that Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for many killings, including the Holey Artisan attack in 2016, the government continue to deny the existence of IS groups in Bangladesh or even the direct involvement of any local militant group with IS.
Md Moniruzzaman, an additional deputy inspector general (intelligence) of newly formed Anti-terrorism Unit of Police, said: “Alongside regular activities, we are now embracing a soft approach, trying to change the mindset of the radicalized faction and taking up programs which raise motivation and awareness. Also, we are working on long-term capacity building and institutional skills development.”
“We are using ‘community engagement’ and ‘civil society’ to deradicalize and eradicate radical elements among the population as part of our long-term strategy. We believe this will help root out the remnants of any militancy,” he added.
Global attacks vs local attacks
The New Zealand and Sri Lanka attacks in the first half of 2019 were like wildfire for Bangladesh. After the attacks, militant groups tried to reorganize and attacked five places in Dhaka city. All of which were targeted towards the police.
On a different note, Islamic State’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in an attack by United States forces in northern Syria on October 26, 2019. It is evident that militant organizations have been cornered all over the world. Bangladesh is also in a good position to control militancy.
It does not mean there were no attacks. The five attacks targeting police took place in Dhaka’s Gulistan, Malibagh, near Paltan police box, Khamarbari, and Science lab area.
Three people, including two traffic constables and a community policeman were injured in Gulistan on April 29. Two people, including a female police official were hurt when an unidentified person hurled a crude bomb at a police vehicle in Malibagh intersection of Dhaka on May 27.
Meanwhile, on the same day a “bomb like object” was found near Paltan police box and Khamarbari end of Manik Miah Avenue, about five kilometres from Paltan on July 23 night. Later, police destroyed the objects.
On August 31, two police officials sustained injuries in a crude bomb blast in Dhaka's Science Lab area.
Not only in Dhaka, a bomb was also exploded at Aranghata Primary School's field adjacent to the police station in Khulna city on December 5. Earlier, on September 30, another bomb exploded at Awami League’s Shiromoni office in Khulna.
Afterwards, Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for most of the bomb blasts.
Two separate militant operations in Dhaka were very significant in 2019. At least two people died in a suicidal blast at a suspected militant den in the Bosila area at Dhaka's Mohammadpur on April 29, following an exchange of fire with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) during a raid.
The second operation was conducted by Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit in two suspected militant dens in Narayanganj’s Fatullah area, and they detained three people on September 23, who were involved in Dhaka’s five attacks.
Monirul Islam, CTTC unit’s chief said that counterterrorism activities are a complex and long-term process since militants believe in a certain ideology, which takes a long time to eradicate completely.
“We were able to neutralize the capability of militants to carry out an attack like Holey Artisan. They attempted to build hideouts and gather explosives for attacks. But it was possible to foil their plans,” he added and said; “For that reason, they could not do much last year (2018).”
They were identified and some of them have already been arrested. An attempt is underway to arrest the remaining one or two people, he added.
CTTC are also working to de-radicalize and rehabilitate the militants. They are also conducting awareness programs in different sectors to curb militancy, said Monirul.
There are positive incidents too.
Major achievement of the year was the pronouncement of verdict in the case regarding the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, which shook the whole world by its brutality. A total of 22 people, mostly foreigners were killed in the 2016 attack.
Everyone of the society including the law enforcement agencies see this verdict as epoch-making. This verdict indicates there is no scope for such crimes in Bangladesh.