The country is experiencing a rapid growth of internet users, many of whom only use social media sites
According to the police, 82 percent of the people arrested for being involved in terrorist activities were found to be radicalized through social media.
Md Moniruzzaman, additional deputy inspector general of the Anti Terrorism Unit (ATU) of police, made the statement while presenting a keynote at a program, quoting a study conducted on 250 people arrested between 2015 and 2017 for their involvement in militancy.
The day long program – Preventing Violent Extremism Through Community Engagement – took place at Independent University, Bangladesh on Monday.
The country is experiencing a rapid growth of internet users, many of whom only use social media sites. Of the 93.681 million active internet users of the country, around 34 million people use Facebook, according to data provided by BTCL and statista.com.
Moniruzzaman said: “82 percent of the people arrested for being involved in extremist activities were radicalized through various forms of social media, while the rest were radicalized through other methods.”
The police official, also the supervisor of the study, said the terrorists used social media or encrypted software to communicate with each other in 80 percent of the cases.
Replying to a question, he said none of the arrested were framed wrongfully but while arresting the organizers of terrorist acts and their associates, some might have been held wrongfully temporarily.
“Bangladesh Police does not yet have artificial intelligence (AI). We do things manually and use mixed approaches as we have some other analytical tools,” he said, replying to a question about the use of AI to combat radicalization and terrorism.
“But robotic intelligence is in the pipeline,” Moniruzzaman added.
Replying to another question, he said the reports of disappeared youths went down significantly due to some timely measures taken by the police.
He commented that the radicalization problem needs much more than simple prevention, while explaining police’s actions in the counter radicalization process.
However, he admitted that police sometimes have to do some things for the greater interest of the country.
The ATU chief, also the Additional Inspector General of Police, Mohammad Abul Kashem singled out divisiveness as the major weapon for terrorist groups in misleading youths, and advised them not to be divided in any situation, to remain united, and to support each other.
Special guest of the program, UK Deputy High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Kanbar Hossein-Bor, shared his personal experience, stating the role of fear and failure in radicalization.
The Australian High Commission's acting Head of Mission, Penny Morton, Pro-Vice Chancellor at Independent University, Prof Milan Pagon, Dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management, Abdul Khaleque, and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university, Rashed Ahmed Chowdhury, were among others present at the program.
Law enforcement agencies have long been saying that extremist groups are utilizing online tools and resources to spread messages of violence and division.
In the thesis paper, “Online Radicalization: Bangladesh Perspective,” submitted by Major Mohammad Istiaque Rashid to the US Army Command and General Staff College in 2017, it was stated that terrorists in Bangladesh attempt to build their radical narratives based on religious and sociopolitical issues.
Radicalization greatly depends on the push and pull factor, where sociopolitical issues are a push factor, while the sense of belonging to a group as an outlet for grievances is the pull factor.