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Tamim is dead. Now what?

  • Published at 01:28 am August 28th, 2016
  • Last updated at 07:57 pm August 28th, 2016
Tamim is dead. Now what?
Tamim had been identified as Islamic State's operational leader in Bangladesh and was also known by the nom de guerre Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif.  He was believed to have masterminded the attacks this year on Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka and Sholakia Eidgah in Kishoreganj. Operation Hit Strong 27, a precision sting operation on a residential building in Narayanganj, left three suspected militants including Tamim dead. He and his associates were killed after they rejected an opportunity to surrender. The demise of the “shadowy Canadian leader of IS in Bangladesh”, to use the words of Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism, raises questions about the future of terrorism in Bangladesh. Below Amarasingam (A) and a Bangladeshi security analyst (B) who has asked not to be named answer nine questions about the future of Islamic State's links to Bangladesh and the continued threat posed by terrorism: Now that Tamim Chowdhury is dead, who is likely to succeed him in Bangladesh? Amarasingam: That is unclear and it is unclear whether any kind of succession will happen any time soon. The impression I get is that Tamim happened to be useful to them, and came along at the right time. Finding a new leader won't be easy. Bangladeshi security analyst: It is not possible to say who may succeed him but it will likely be someone who has fought for IS in Iraq/Syria and is known to the leadership. That person will have to pledge an oath of allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he can become the leader. How significant is his killing – symbolically and operationally? A: Symbolically, it won't much matter to his supporters who will see him as a martyr for the cause, continue to recruit and continue to plot attacks if possible. Operationally, I think it could be quite significant. If as seems likely, the network in Bangladesh is small, the death of key operatives over the last several months will basically kill the movement. We will have to wait and see. B: Tamim's killing is clearly quite significant at least from a symbolic standpoint and partially from an operational standpoint. There are other dangerous operators in the network like the second tier leader, Nurul Islam Marjan, who has been linked to the Holey attack. But more significantly Major Zia may now play a more active role and may try to assume a bigger leadership in the whole Ansar al-Islam/JMB nexus. Will the succession be decided by IS central command or will it be local? A: Could be both but it will have to be approved by IS central. It is likely that one-off attacks could continue to happen in Bangladesh, with people claiming it in the name of IS. And IS central may continue to claim these attacks. But operationally it will be quite different I imagine. tttttt B: The succession will likely be decided by IS central command since they were they first to announce Tamim Chowdhury as the leader of the IS chapter in Bangladesh. He was named as Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif. Will Tamim's death dampen or spur recruitment to IS's ranks? A: Difficult to say. The network always seemed to be a bit small. Details about how many there are, whether there is a second in command, whether there are other cells operating – all of this remains to be seen.   B: His death will be a moral blow to JMB/IS members but it will not dampen IS activities here. Rather the recruitment to IS’s ranks will carry on. Will Tamim's death cause revenge attacks in Bangladesh? A: This remains to be seen. B: There may attempts in the short-term to avenge his death to show that even without their leader they are a potent force. In the medium-term, will IS in Bangladesh regroup, hide, attack with greater ferocity or relocate? A: I think they wanted to go out with a bang. Tamim likely knew his days were numbered and wanted to die a martyr. That's why, as has been reported, he may have been plotting an attack on the garment district. Even with the manhunt under way, operations were being planned. B: The medium strategy for IS for Bangladesh is likely to be to remain on course and continue with intermittent attacks. However, due to the strong drive by security agencies the extremists are clearly under pressure and on the run. But what is worrisome is there appears to be a number of men and women missing and many extremist group members are now being arrested and killed on a regular basis. This means there is a substantial network out there of various extremist groups. In addition, there is probably some sort of ongoing recruitment drive. The bottom line is that law enforcement and intelligence agencies have to continue their strong anti-extremist drive. There cannot be a moment's let up. Will Tamim's death have an impact beyond Bangladesh? A: This is an important question but also one we know least about. It is unclear whether he was also coordinating attacks in India or other south Asian countries. B: I don’t see his death having any impact beyond the Bangladeshi theatre of operations. Do Canada-based terrorists pose a special threat to Bangladesh? Or is the Canadian connection specific to Tamim's personal circumstances? A: No, this was peculiar to Tamim. I think there will always be foreigners involved in the conflicts of their home countries. That's only natural, but there is nothing specific about Canada. B: Canada-based terrorists do not pose a special threat to Bangladesh. I believe Tamim was the exception. However, there is always the possibility that some other Bangladeshis from Canada may have come here or tried to make their way here from Iraq/Syria. There have been reports of at least four Bangladeshi-Canadians from Toronto who disappeared in 2014 and may have travelled to Iraq/Syria and joined IS.  There are reports of other missing Bangladeshis – from Turkey, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Japan and some Middle Eastern states – who may have joined IS. They could pose a major threat to Bangladesh if they manage to sneak back into the country. Is IS's core recruitment pool for operations in Bangladesh located in the West? A: No. As we've seen, a few had American passports and so on, but I think local Jihadist networks drawn from previous groups are still the most important. B: I don’t believe the core recruitment pool of IS operatives in Bangladesh is in the West. There are evidently some foreigners of Bangladeshi origin, including a few from Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and other countries, who have joined IS. Some have also been killed in operations undertaken by the US-led anti-IS coalition and one Bangladeshi-American, who escaped from Syria after having joined IS, voluntarily gave himself up to the US authorities.
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