'The Anti-Terrorism Unit carried out operation activities with limitations, now all these restrictions have been removed'
The Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU), a special unit of Bangladesh Police, has received the status of an investigation agency as the government framed new rules for the unit.
The authorities concerned issued a gazette notification relating to the "Anti-Terrorism Unit Rules 2019" on Tuesday.
Confirming the matter, ATU’s Superintendent of Police (SP) Mohammad Mahiduzzaman said: "The Anti-Terrorism Unit carried out operation activities with limitations, now all these restrictions have been lifted.”
"Necessary steps will be taken to start its work in full swing at various stages of the unit, including operations," he added.
On September 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs established the unit to curb militancy and terrorism in the country.
Sources said the ATU could not investigate cases even if anyone was arrested for terrorism and terrorist activities. The unit had to hand over detainees to the police station as police or its other units were empowered to investigate the cases.
But now, according to the rules, the ATU will be able to conduct follow-up operations on the arrests, investigations and custody of the accused.
The rules state that the ATU will be able to play an effective role in preventing terrorist activities by undertaking counter-radicalization and deradicalization programs.
They will be able to take effective measures to collect intelligence information, identify technical whereabouts of extremists and terrorists with the help of authorities or agencies empowered under existing laws and regulations, and prevent their activities.
The regulations also said that the ATU would exchange information with national and international agencies on the issue of terrorist threats and possible remedies as directed by the inspector general of police.
The ATU will submit an annual report to the government after reviewing cause, remedy of extremism, analyzing terrorist activities, risks through regular data collection, analysis and formatting, it said.
Wishing anonymity, officials said that the unit now is allowed to set up special teams or squads. The heads of this unit will be able to form the Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) team, the crime scene and bomb disposal unit, the Crisis Emergency Response Team, and the dog squad.
Officers of the unit will be able to exercise their powers including arrest, detention, search, and seizure likewise officers-in-charge of police stations, they added.
In addition, ATU can take assistance of experts, psychologists, doctors, researchers, and religious thinkers to investigate cases and identify the whereabouts of extremists and terrorists and prevent their activities, they further said.
A research and training cell, and database centre along with a legal cell will be set up for the unit, the officials said.
In the ATU organizational structure, 581 posts -- 31 cadre positions and 550 non-cadre positions -- were created to form the unit and conduct its activities.
Among the cadre posts, there will be an additional inspector general of police, as the head of the unit, along with a deputy inspector general (DIG), two additional DIGs, five SPs, 10 additional SPs, and 12 ASPs. The rest are of the ranks from inspector to constables, sources said.