Home » Frantic Bid By Islamists To Turn Bangladesh Into Neo-Taliban State As 3rd Largest Islamic Nation Vows To Stay Secular: OPED

Frantic Bid By Islamists To Turn Bangladesh Into Neo-Taliban State As 3rd Largest Islamic Nation Vows To Stay Secular: OPED

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OPED By Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

Bangladesh, the third-largest Muslim country in the world, is at a crossroads, with its next general election scheduled to be held on January 7 – where anti-Semite, anti-West radical Islamist and jihadist groups are openly showing fangs generating extreme wariness amongst the people in the country and the region as Islamist takeover of Bangladesh would turn it into another neo-Taliban state.

Such fear is gradually intensified as, in recent years, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is termed a ‘Tier-III Terrorist Organization’ by several US courts, and its ideological allies such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) are getting exposed sympathy of the Biden administration.

Biden administration’s recent actions may have severe consequences for Bangladesh, potentially turning it into a neo-Taliban state. Following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, many Afghans who had supported and collaborated with US forces were left in a vulnerable position, targeted by extremist groups.

Now, Biden is making a similar mistake in Bangladesh, a South Asian country, by seemingly supporting Islamist forces with a long history of anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western sentiments, where these Islamist bigots were on record-setting fire on the American flag and chanted slogans such as – “Death to America” or “We shall become Taliban, Bangla [Bangladesh] will be Afghan.”

During the 2001-2006 rule of the coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), there were several incidents in Bangladesh where protesters burned American flags. Various factors, including political developments, international events, and public sentiment, often triggered these protests.

Biden administration’s disturbing diplomacy has raised concerns about the long-standing relationship between the United States and Bangladesh, potentially jeopardizing the 51-year history of cooperation between the two nations. Since the US recognized the newly independent Bangladesh in 1971 after its victory over Pakistani occupation forces, the relationship had been marked by cordial cooperation and significant development partnership. However, this positive trajectory seems to be taking a troubling turn due to President Biden’s diplomatic approach.

In recent years, the Biden administration has claimed to uphold democracy. Still, it has shown hostility towards Bangladesh’s ruling secularist Awami League government while seemingly collaborating with the ultra-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its jihadist allies, including Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). This approach is dangerously pushing Bangladesh towards a future reminiscent of a neo-Taliban state or even a caliphate.

Bangladeshi Islamist Hamas-Hezbollah Connections

It is essential to note that BNP and its Islamist partners have a history of harboring anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western sentiments. These Islamist groups have been on record for setting fire to the American flag and chanting slogans like “Death to America” or “We shall become Taliban, Bangla [Bangladesh] will be Afghan.”

In a profoundly concerning move, during the 2001-2006 rule of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, they even named a bridge ‘Hezbollah’ as a “mark of honor,” openly expressing their support for the Lebanese resistance group, Hezbollah, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization.

BNP-Jamaat coalition government’s junior communications minister Salahuddin Ahmed told the French news agency AFP, “I named the bridge Hezbollah because of our love for the Lebanese resistance group. Hezbollah is the only group which is fighting Israel, and the bridge is named after the group as a mark of honor”.

The then Foreign Minister Morshed Khan went as far as to label Israel’s actions as “state terrorism” and “religious terrorism” while accusing the United States of sponsoring it.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami consider Jews and Israel as “enemies” – and support the “elimination of the Jewish State from the world map”. At the same time, they recognize Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas as “ideological allies.”

Biden’s recent actions in Bangladesh could have dire consequences, potentially turning the country into a neo-Taliban state. Following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, many Afghans who had supported the US found themselves vulnerable and targeted by extremist groups. Unfortunately, it appears that a similar mistake is being made in Bangladesh, with President Biden seemingly aligning with forces known for their emotional anti-American sentiments.

Of further concern is the active support for Islamist groups, including BNP, JeI, and Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and officials at the State Department. The US ambassador in Dhaka, Peter D. Haas, has been observed associating with individuals who burn American flags and even threatening Bangladeshi media outlets with visa-related consequences to coerce them into promoting the agenda of these Islamist forces.

By supporting the BNP, the Biden administration may inadvertently bolster an organization with an agenda that contradicts American values and foreign policy objectives. The BNP aims to establish Sharia Law in Bangladesh with the backing of Islamist allies, potentially transforming the nation into an anti-Semitic caliphate, mirroring the Afghan model. Such a development could significantly undermine US interests in the region.

Inadvertently empowering Islamist groups in Bangladesh could lead the country down a path toward becoming a neo-Taliban state, with far-reaching implications for American foreign policy and the global fight against terrorism. These decisions demand careful consideration and reevaluation of the US approach to Bangladesh to preserve shared values and interests.

RAB-Bangladesh
A file photo of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bangladesh Flashback

Almost two decades ago, during 2001-2006, when an ultra-Islamist and ruthlessly anti-Semitic government comprising Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) was in power, eminent journalist and counterterrorism expert Alex Perry saw Bangladesh as a “deadly cargo” as it had become a breeding ground and haven of terrorists, insurgents, and militants. In his article in TIME magazine on April 14, 2002, Alex Perry wrote:

As it headed for port through the midwinter dusk, little about the MV [motor vessel] Mecca stood out from the other boats plying the waters off southern Bangladesh. Port workers and fishermen noted the same squat deckhouse and plump hold that have sheltered fishermen from the cyclones of the Bay of Bengal for centuries. The Mecca had the usual rusted rigging and smoke-blackened stern.

“And the crew, too, was like most others working off Chittagong: pure Rohingyas, stocky Muslim refugees from western Burma. Only the thick salt marks high on the Mecca’s bow hinted that it was ending a voyage longer than most fishing trips. But this was Chittagong, South Asia’s premier hub for pirates, gunrunners, and smugglers. When the dockworkers saw the Mecca anchoring on a sandbank three kilometers out to sea on the night of Dec. 21, it was a signal to all not to ask questions.

“For nine months, the exact nature of the Mecca’s cargo or the shipment’s eventual destination remained unknown. But there were clues. Port workers that night said they saw five motor launches ferry in large groups of men from the boat wearing black turbans, long beards, and traditional Islamic salwar kameez. Their towering height suggested these travelers were foreigners, and the boxes of ammunition and the AK-47s slung across their shoulders helped sketch a sinister picture.

Then, in July, a senior member of Bangladesh’s most prominent terrorist group, the 2,000-strong al-Qaeda-allied Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), told TIME the 150 men who entered Bangladesh that night were Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan. Three senior Bangladeshi military sources also confirmed this was the case. On Oct. 7, Indian police arrested Burmese-born HUJI fighter and weapons courier Fazle Karim (alias Abu Fuzi) as he arrived in Calcutta by train from Kashmir.

“A veteran of al-Qaeda’s camps in eastern Afghanistan who told his interrogators he had twice met Osama bin Laden, Karim said he recognized two people he had trained with in Afghanistan while visiting HUJI hideouts in Bangladesh in August. The pair told him they were part of a group of “more than 100 Arabs and Afghans belonging to al-Qaeda and the Taliban who had arrived by ship at Chittagong in winter,” Karim said, according to transcripts of his interview with Indian police.

The arrival of a large al-Qaeda group in the capital, Dhaka, that night raises pressing concerns that Bangladesh may have become a dangerous new front in America’s war on terror. Indeed, one Bangladeshi newspaper last month even quoted an unnamed foreign embassy in Dhaka as saying Osama bin Laden’s No. 2, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been hiding out in the country for months after arriving in Chittagong.

(Last week, in an audio message that authorities have tentatively authenticated, al-Zawahiri warned of further attacks against the US, vowing that it will not go “unpunished for its crimes.”)

“According to a source inside a Bangladeshi Islamic group with close ties to al-Qaeda, al-Zawahiri arrived in Dhaka in early March and stayed briefly in the compound of a local fundamentalist leader. It’s unclear how al-Zawahiri came to be in Bangladesh or whether he’s still there. However, a source in the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), a Bangladeshi military intelligence agency, told TIME that al-Zawahiri is believed to have left Bangladesh this summer, crossing over the eastern border into Burma with Rohingya rebels. U.S. intelligence, however, has no evidence this report is accurate…”

In the article, Alex Perry further wrote: Bangladesh, it is true, is no Afghanistan or even Pakistan. For centuries, Bengalis have been united by a culture of tolerance that defies the familiar South Asian divide between Hindu and Muslim. After Sept. 11, the CIA did set up a new five-man base in Dhaka, but merely as part of a global policy of establishing a presence in all Muslim countries.

The American intelligence community’s view is summed up by one U.S. source who told TIME that Bangladesh is “not a real hot account.” But Bangladesh also has its fundamentalists. Its southern coastal hills and northern borders with India are lawless and bristling with Islamic militants armed by gunrunners en route from Cambodia and south Thailand to Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Today, southern Bangladesh has become a haven for hundreds of jihadis on the lam. They find natural allies in Muslim guerrillas from India hiding out across the border and in Muslim Rohingyas, tens of thousands of whom fled the ethnic and religious suppression of the Burmese military junta in the late 1970s and 1980s. Many Rohingyas are long-term refugees, but some are trained to cause trouble back home in camps tolerated by a succession of Bangladeshi governments.

The original facilities date back to 1975, making them Asia’s oldest jihadi training camps. One former Burmese guerrilla who visits the camps regularly describes three near Ukhia, south of the town of Cox’s Bazar, as able to accommodate a force of 2,500 between them. The biggest, he claims, has 26 interconnected bunkers complete with kitchens, lecture halls, telephones, and televisions concealed beneath a three-meter-high false forest floor that stretches between two hills.

Weapons available for training include AK-47s, heavy machine guns, rifles, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortars. Mantraps and mines, triggered by spotters hiding in tree houses, protect approaches to the camp.

Over the years, the former guerrilla says, Ukhia has hosted militant visitors from the southern Philippines, Indonesia, southern Thailand, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even Uzbekistan and Chechnya. Videotapes showing al-Qaeda in training that CNN unearthed in August include footage from 1990 that features Rohingya rebels. One of the five signatories to bin Laden’s Feb. 23, 1998 call for a jihad against America was Fazjul Rahman, who signed in the name of “the Jihad movement of Bangladesh.”

Fighters trained and given new identities in Bangladesh also regularly find their way to conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Indian intelligence says the Islamic hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane with 189 passengers and crew on board, which they forced to fly from Kathmandu to Kandahar in December 1999, had traveled to Nepal from Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi government typically reacts with fury to reports of jihadi camps or fundamentalism within its borders. The reason isn’t hard to fathom. In October 2001, two Islamic fundamentalist parties with a history of links to terror groups were elected as part of a four-way electoral alliance led by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

The accession of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamic Oikya Jote to power in Bangladesh rang alarm bells. Islamic Oikya Jote is open about its sympathies: it is well known for its support of Islamic fundamentalism, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. The party’s membership essentially duplicates that of the HUJI, which was founded in 1992 by Bangladeshi mujahedin returning from Afghanistan with orders from bin Laden to turn the moderate Islamic state into a nation of true believers.

The HUJI has been involved in scores of bombings, including two attempted assassinations of then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in July 2000. And while Jamaat now projects a moderate face, its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, has been behind a string of bomb attacks and killings. At gatherings during the campaign, Jamaat leaders spoke of breathing the “Islamic spirit of jihad” into the armed forces. At the same time, supporters rallied around posters of bin Laden and the HUJI slogan: AMRA HOBO TALIBAN, BANGLA HOBE AFGHANISTAN. (“We will be Taliban, and Bangladesh will be Afghanistan”).

In the past decade, Jamaat is also the main force behind the phenomenal growth of unlicensed madrasahs, known as aumi [Koranic] madrasahs. There are now an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 in Bangladesh, of which 30 to 40, run by mujahedin veterans, are known to shelter militants and recruit fresh fighters. Such militants sometimes receive explicit encouragement from Bangladesh’s spiritual leaders.

Mullah Obaidul Haque, head of the national mosque in Dhaka and a Jamaat associate, told a gathering of thousands in the capital last December: “America and Bush must be destroyed. The Americans will be washed away if Bangladesh’s 120 million Muslims spit on them.” So controversial were the BNP’s partners in government, and so infuriating did they find reports of rising fundamentalism that earlier this year, Zia twice denied that there was any “Taliban” in her government or even in Bangladesh.

But a Bangladeshi government official tells TIME that while Zia’s administration is aware of the fundamentalist threat inside the country, tackling it head-on might trigger a violent backlash. Foreign Minister Morshed Khan took the same line, telling TIME that it was better to have such groups inside the government looking out.

Al-Qaeda’s links to the leadership of Jamaat or Islamic Oikya Jote may be largely rhetorical. But the DGFI, Bangladesh’s military intelligence service, may have more to hide. Its agents maintain contact with their counterparts in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and have a long history of supporting rebels fighting Indian rule across the border, including providing safe houses in Dhaka for the leaders of the United Liberation Front for Assam (ULFA).

The HUJI source and the port workers who saw the Mecca arrive claim that the man who greeted the new arrivals was a DGFI major. The major checked the visitors in by name and led them to a fleet of SUVs lined up on the docks, adding the port workers. A spokesman for the DGFI denied knowing that members of al-Qaeda had ever set foot in Bangladesh. He even denied that the major existed, although diplomatic registration records show the officer was a long-standing service member stationed in Calcutta in the mid-1990s.

The HUJI source and a Bangladeshi military source maintain the major was the last link in an operation that began in Afghanistan. After leaving the Taliban’s headquarters in Kandahar as the city fell in early December and crossing into Pakistan, the fugitives traveled to Karachi, hired the Mecca, and made the sail around India.

The emergence of al-Qaeda in Dhaka is merely the latest sign that Bangladesh’s more radical Islamic groups are coming out from the forests. The former Burmese rebel says three of the camps near Cox’s Bazar have closed since October not because of the kind of governmental pressure being applied in Pakistan but because the militants feel safe enough to transfer their operations to like-minded madrasahs, some of them in the capital.

On May 9 and 10, 63 representatives of nine Islamic groups, including Rohingya forces, the Islamic Oikya Jote, and the ULFA, met in Ukhia to form the Bangladesh Islamic Manch, a united council under HUJI’s leadership. So far, the Manch has restricted itself to circulating speeches by bin Laden and Mullah Masood Azhar, a Pakistani militant leader.

But it has big plans, says the HUJI source: “The dream is to create a larger Islamic land than the territorial limits of Bangladesh to include Muslim areas of Assam, north Bengal, and Burma’s Arakan province.” That dream, if Islamic terrorists are allowed to continue their operations in Bangladesh, could be a nightmare for the rest of the region.

Following the publication of Alex Perry’s article, journalist Bertil Lintner, in another article in South Asia Terrorism Portal, wrote: “…While Bangladesh is yet far from becoming another Pakistan, Islamist forces are no doubt on the rise, and extremist influence is growing, especially in the countryside. According to a foreign diplomat in Dhaka, “In the 1960s and 1970s, it was the leftists who were seen as incorruptible purists. Today, the role model for many young men in rural areas is the dedicated Islamic cleric with his skull cap, flowing robes, and beard”.

Commenting on the 2001 general election and Islamist coalition government of BNP and JeI returning to power, Bertil Lintner wrote: “… Since last year’s election, however, extremist Islamist groups have once again become more blatant in their attacks on the country’s minorities and secular forces. The HuJI especially has attracted the attention of security planners in the region.

“The group was formed in 1992, reportedly with funds from Osama bin Laden. The existence of firm links between the new Bangladeshi militants and Al Qaeda was first proven when Fazlur Rahman, leader of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh” (to which HuJI belongs), signed the official declaration of ‘holy war’ against the United States on February 23, 1998. Other signatories included bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri (chief of the Jihad Group in Egypt), Rifa’i Ahmad Taha aka Abu-Yasir (Egyptian Islamic Group), and Sheikh Mir Hamzah (secretary of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan)”.

West’s Bias Towards Islamists In Bangladesh

Since 2001, in particular, when the BNP-Jamaat coalition comprising hardlines Islamists, anti-Semites, jihadists, and anti-Hindu elements succeeded in returning to power, Bangladesh – the third-largest Muslim nation quickly started becoming another Pakistan or Afghanistan. Within this troubled and polarized atmosphere, there has been a surge in Islamist militancy in the name of “defending Islam.”

Ahmadis fell victim to extreme cruelty from various groups, namely Khatmey Nabuwat Andolan (KNA), Khatmey Nabuwat Movement (KNM), etc., which were getting direct patronization from Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and few more Islamist groups in the country.

Well-entrenched but subdued Deobandi militant groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami-Bangladesh (HuJI-B), both of which trace their lineage to JeI, became increasingly fierce and energized. New groups had also emerged, such as Ansar al-Islam, which acted as the Bangladeshi wing of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and Jund al-Tawheed wal Khilafah (JTK), whose loyalties lie with the Islamic State, making Bangladesh a new field of competition for the global jihadist powerhouses.

The conducive atmosphere of Bangladesh for Islamist militancy has been broadly created by two historical factors: the country’s political patronage of Islamism that nourished over a dozen extremist groups over the decades and the rise and consolidation of the Deobandi-oriented JeI organization and its clamor for sharia-based governance in Bangladesh.

Ever since Bangladesh emerged as a nominally secularist state in 1971 after a war against Pakistan, the country has witnessed a sporadic, internal politico-religious tug-of-war. Even though the constitution emphasizes secularism as one of its four state principles and has banned the use of religion in politics, the clamor for a Sharia-based Islamic state, ostensibly propounded by the JeI, which BNP later joined, has powerful backers in the country even today.

The JeI-BNP nexus has strong connections with a myriad of militant groups that have mushroomed throughout the country in recent decades under its patronage. These groups look at JeI-BNP as their spiritual and ideological fountainhead.

There was a respite of 17 years now from Islamist-related violence after a crackdown on Islamist groups after the military intervened in January 2007 to impose a caretaker government and during the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government, which came to power in 2009 following a landslide victory in the December 2008 general election.

At this stage, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) – the elite force of Bangladesh Police, played a magnificent and highly courageous role in continuing offensives against terrorists and jihadists, where the Awami League government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed to eliminate Islamist, jihadist, and terrorists from the soil of Bangladesh.

But the period of relative calm ended with the Islamist backlash against secularists in 2013, unleashing violence onto Bangladesh’s streets as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ideological ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) launched countrywide arson and bomb attacks followed by the murder of Awami League leaders thus creating a fearsome atmosphere. This notoriety continued for months – this time again – RAB played a crucial role in saving the country from turning into another Afghanistan or Pakistan.

It may be recalled here that in 2013, few months away from the 2014 general elections, while pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI) had gathered hundreds and thousands of madrassa teachers and students, including dozens of individuals who had fought in Afghanistan against Soviet Union and Palestine against Israel as “mujahedeen” had also joined these gatherings thus demanding enforcement of caliphate in Bangladesh with HeI chief as “Ameer” of the caliphate.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Jatiya Party had openly declared solidarity with Hefazat’s dangerous bids. It was later revealed that BNP, Jamaat, and other Islamist forces in Bangladesh had secretly chalked out a blueprint of establishing Sharia rule in Bangladesh by staging an Islamic revolution – xeroxing that of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran.

Following the 2014 general election, which was boycotted by BNP and Jamaat, this nexus of Islamists carried out systematic bombings and arson attacks on religious minorities, singling out the minority Hindu community for the “crimes” of voting for the Awami League. While Hefazat demanded turning Bangladesh into a Caliphate, BNP, and Jamaat demanded appointing a “caretaker government” system to oversee elections – a practice Bangladesh’s Jatiya Sangshad (National Parliament) had abolished.

Violence continued unabated while dozens of Hindu homes and temples came under arson and bombing attacks. Hindu religious scriptures were burned to ashes while deities were demolished by the members of BNP, Jamaat, Hefazat, and their Islamist cohorts. Hindu girls and women were raped by these Islamist thugs, thus establishing a total reign of terror on Hindus in Bangladesh.

Conspirators of turning a secularist Bangladesh into a Sharia nation would have succeeded in 2013 unless members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had not intervened in the matter and driven away thousands of HeI members when they laid a seize at Dhaka city’s Motijheel commercial area. As the conspiracy of unseating the secularist Awami League government through Hefazat-e-Islam’s attempted midnight revolution, the BNP-Jamaat nexus immediately began massive propaganda in the Western countries by bringing false accusations of “violating human rights” and “mass-murder of Hefazat men.”

At this state, an NGO named Odhikar, under the leadership of Adilur Rahman Khan – a leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) began false propaganda with the agenda of misleading various international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International etcetera, while BNP-Jamaat nexus continued spending millions of dollars towards lobbyist activities in the western nations – especially the United States to gain sympathy and mislead the western policymakers against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Awami League and country’s law enforcement agencies – including Rapid Action Battalion.

Radical Islam Continuous To Threaten Bangladesh

Although the people of Bangladesh rejected the Islamist-jihadist conglomerate of BNP-JeI and voted a secularist Awami League into power through a landslide victory during the general election in December 2008, it became a herculin task for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her government to check the rise of militancy and terrorism and eliminate the existence of training camps and hideouts of the anti-India separatist group – ULFA, while it also was a difficult task to fight jihadist outfits such as JMB, HuJI and later Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which had formed an alliance with Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

These militancy outfits had turned disparate in destabilizing the law and order situation in Bangladesh with the ulterior goal of unseating Sheikh Hasina from power. Well-orchestrated attacks targeting secularist individuals, journalists, bloggers, and even foreigners became almost a regular phenomenon.

At the junction, the Awami League government, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, began taking more decisive actions against these elements, where the international community, including the United States, played an extremely influential role by training members of law enforcement agencies including Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) thus enabling these agencies in effectively combating terrorism and militancy in the country.

Due to such rigorous efforts, militancy outfits, although forced underground, continued heinous jihadist attacks. One of the victims of such attacks was US citizen Avijit Roy, dead, and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

On February 26, 2015, Roy and Ahmed, both Bangladesh-born US citizens, were visiting Dhaka to attend a book fair when they were attacked by assailants with machetes. Roy was killed, and Ahmed survived with critical injuries.

Two related groups have claimed responsibility.  Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack.  Shortly after that, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Roy and Ahmed.

In 2016, the Department of State designated AQIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224, which provides authority to sanction terrorists and those who support terrorists or terrorist acts.

On December 20, 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, through the Rewards for Justice (RFJ) office, authorized a reward of up to US$5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any country of anyone involved in the murder of Avijit Roy and attack on Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

In July 2016, there was another jihadist attack in Bangladesh at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka city’s Gulshan area. During this gruesome massacre, several foreign nationals, including locals, were brutally murdered by the members of the Islamic State.

Since the coalition government of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) came to power in 2001, counterterrorism experts throughout the world saw the country as a “breeding ground of militancy and terrorism” while others saw the country becoming “another Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

During the 2001-2006 BNP-JeI coalition rule, several militancy outfits, including Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) – which later formed franchise with Islamic State (ISIS) and Hakratul Jihad-e-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B), were gaining strength under the direct patronization of the government.

At the same time, separatist groups in northeastern states of India – particularly the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) were allowed by the BNP-JeI regime to use Bangladesh soil in continuing cross-border terrorism in India while ULFA was also allowed to establish its training camps and hideouts inside Bangladesh. Additionally, the BNP-JeI government was actively collaborating with ULFA by coordinating and implementing the supply of weapons and explosives sent by Pakistani ISI and other foreign elements for these separatist groups.

Biden
US President Joe Biden

Biden’s Disastrous Maneuvers On Bangladesh

The recent maneuvers by the Biden Administration could considerably impact Bangladesh. Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, along with other officials from the State Department, seem to be extending support to Islamist factions in Bangladesh, including the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Peter D. Haas, the US ambassador stationed in Dhaka, has allegedly been spotted socializing with figures who have articulated anti-American views. Such conduct contravenes established diplomatic protocols and could conceivably result in the ousting of the US Embassy from Bangladesh.

The Biden Administration’s strategy risks unsettling Bangladesh and creating an environment conducive for extremist entities to ascend to power. While this could potentially serve American objectives related to resource acquisition and geopolitical leverage, it imperils regional stability.

Further complicating matters are the swirling allegations surrounding Hunter Biden’s lobbying endeavors in favor of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The BNP has been instrumental in fomenting anti-American sentiment, endorsing terrorism, and promoting militancy.

US State Department’s recent imposition of visa restrictions on Bangladesh is thought to be influenced by Hunter Biden’s lobbying for the BNP, a perplexing move considering the BNP’s current classification as an “Undesignated Tier-3 Terrorist Organization” by a US court.

The Biden Administration’s backing of the BNP, a party designated as a tier-3 terrorist organization by the United States, has elicited concern from various sectors. Such endorsement could potentially metamorphose Bangladesh into a sanctuary for extremist ideologies.

  • Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and editor of Blitz, a newspaper published in Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. VIEWS PERSONAL
  • Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib
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