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NGO jihadis rattle Dhaka

NGO jihadis rattle Dhaka

Author: Bhaskar Roy
Publication: Sify.com
Date: April 6, 2009
URL: http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14879099&?vsv=TopHP1

Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests.

The recent discovery of a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosive making material from a Madrassa-cum-Orphanage in Bhola in southern Bangladesh has given a fresh jolt to the security establishment and the people of the country.

The question on everyone's lips: how deep have the roots of Islamic terrorism spread in the country?

The rise of Islamic terrorism in the country is not home grown. Nor is the attempt to promote a regressive society an ideological war of a few against a system which may not have addressed their economic aspirations. These forces are being harnessed by a section in the country which wants the birth of Bangladesh to be reversed and the country rejoined with a Pakistan they believe will eventually be Talibanised.

Neither of the above two objectives have the sanction of the large majority of the civil society in either of the two countries. Both objectives also ultimately threaten the international community and its desire for an inclusive, free and democratic global society.

The fact that the US and UK readily sent FBI and Scotland Yard investigators to provide "technical" assistance to Bangladeshi intelligence and security establishments probing the February 25-26 Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) mutiny in Dhaka suggests that the incident, in which around 70 army officers and their family members were killed, was much more than a revolt by a group of disgruntled junior ranks.

The Bhola Madrassa-cum-orphanage, run by an NGO called "Green Crescent", is not a solitary group working on its own. The Rapid Action Battalion-8 (RAB-8) which discovered the institution during its operation against terrorists and terrorist cells found more than just imported weapons and explosives.

They also found a pile of literature with photographs and speeches of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, writings by radical Islamist ideologue Ala Moududi, including literature and posters, combat uniforms. Combat uniforms can be used by terrorists to pose as security personnel in a melee. This is what appears to have happened in the BDR mutiny, according to Bangladeshi media reports quoting investigators.

The Bhola institution and at least three others in different parts of the country are funded by a London based NGO registered under the name of "Green Crescent", run by an expatriate Bangladeshi Ikramul Kabir Faisal, also known as Faisal Mostafa. The name of Mustafa figures in the three-member managing committee of the NGO along with one Safiur Reheman as President and Saifuddin Badal.

The Green Crescent claims to run on voluntary donations and offers free education and health care in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The NGO also received assistance from two other UK based NGOs, the Doctors Worldwide (DW) and the Human Appeal International (HAI), involved in Pakistan. The HAI is currently under observation in the US for suspected links with one of the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detainees.

Faisal Mostafa, who holds a Ph.D, was investigated in UK for links with the Al Qaeda and reported plans to create explosions, but let off due to lack of evidence. But he was jailed for four years for illegally possessing arms.

Faisal's close relatives are linked to the BNP. His cousin, Maj.(Retd.) Hafizuddin, was a Minister in the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) government from 2001-2006. His family is with him. Faisal was, curiously, visiting Bangladesh at this time. He and ten others including Saifuddin Badal have since been detained by the authorities.

The British authorities have started an investigation into the activities of Green Crescent. They would be expected look into the Pakistani activities of the NGO , especially since Britons of Pakistani extraction are getting trained by militants in Pakistan's north and north western regions and returning to the UK. Reports say over 20 of such trained persons have returned to the UK recently.

The US counter-terrorism agencies are also confronted by a new challenge. Young jehadi British Pakistanis can slip into the US quite easily, as British citizens do not require a visa to enter the US. There ought to be concern in the UK, the US and India about Green Crescent's Osama bin Laden/Al Qaeda connections or at least leanings, as the literature seized from the Bhola Green Crescent Madrassa revealed.

The Bangladesh Green Crescent centers have been attracting young children from poor families to their facilities offering free education, shelter and food. The aim obviously is to raise an army of Al Qaeda oriented jehadis. Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) has been busy promoting "self-propelled" jehadi organizations across the world, and Green Crescent appears to be one of them.

Eminent Bangladeshi economist and sociologist Dr. Abul Barkat recently recorded that there were 125 Islamic organization, mostly NGOs, that were either actively militant or supported militancy. Some of these were directly supported by the JEI, while others were controlled by Pakistan's ISI. The JEI and the ISI cooperate in many of their activities and are mutually supportive. Over the past years, a large number of JEI members and supporters and ISI sympathizers have infiltrated various services of the government including the intelligence agencies, security apparatus and the armed forces.

According to recently released Bangladesh government data, between 2007 and 2009 Taka 49,583 crores came into the country mainly though 30 NGOs for cyclone relief, but most of the amount vanished and was not utilized for the stated objective. The government has directed intelligence agencies and the Social Welfare Ministry to monitor the activities of these organizations.

The report also said that the largest number of foreign NGOs active in Bangladesh were from Saudi Arabia, and the rest were from Kuwait, Sudan and Pakistan. The linkages of most of the NGOs with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban are well known. At the same time close association of the JEI and some erstwhile Ministers and Parliamentarian of the 2001-2006 BNP-JEI government, including that of Tareque Reheman Zia, have now been recorded.

Members of Bangladesh intelligence agencies involved in counter-terrorism operations have told some of their media contacts that Pakistan's Laskar-e-Toiba (LeT) was active in Bangladesh, and drawn a nexus between ISI, the JEI and some of the terrorist organizations like the LET, HUJI and the JMB.

There appears to be a dangerous churning of extremist forces in Bangladesh, who suddenly feel threatened by the new government in the country and the growing international focus. Their objective to establish a Shariat based Bangladesh along with one in Pakistan, may be derailed.

A JMB leader recently sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for terrorism asked the judge that if the government in Pakistan could negotiate with the Taliban like in the Swat Valley agreement, why cannot the Bangladesh government do so with them?

This is a deep and significant observation. Recent developments like the BDR mutiny, the spike in terrorism, the JEI's and the BNP's weak charges of India's involvement in the BDR mutiny, and Prime Minister Hasina's determination to bring to trial the "war criminals" of 1971, mostly JEI leaders, all appear to be connected.

Having failed to provoke a war between the BDR and the army, the JEI and BDR are trying to promote an anti-India sentiment among the people. But both the parties stand so discredited in the eyes of the people that their efforts have proved to be futile so far.

Nevertheless, these people are not going to give up easily enough.

The fact that they have external support makes this a concern for the international community.


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