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Eye to eye with terror in Bangladesh


Sumon K Chakrabarti,CNN-IBN
Sep 02, 2007 at 12:42am IST

New Delhi: Chittagong port of Bangladesh—one of the main routes of arm smuggling in the whole of south Asia—has over the past six-years, emerged as the hub of Islamic radicals in the country. CNN-IBN correspondent Sumon Chakraborty traveled inside Bangladesh’s most hideous corners to find an answer.

Groups like the Harkat-ul-Jehad-al Islami and Jamait-al-Mujahiddin are headquartered here. We caught up with a former member of the HUJI, who revealed how Bangladesh is emerging as a terror hub in South Asia.

Syed Hasan Ali, a former zonal commander with the Harkat-ul-jehad-al-Islami in Chittagong said he was trained as a suicide bomber. He now lives in exile on fears that the militants who were trained by him, might turn their guns on now that he has left HUJI behind.

“They don't know what jihad is all about. All that they know is to kill people. Their leaders want to implement what they learnt in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he says.

Since the formation of Bangladesh, a country that achieved its liberation through one of the bloodiest civil wars in human history, the country today fosters and nurtures radical Islam. Religious fanaticism has grown manifold in the last six years of Khaleda Zia led Islamist coalition.

A former schoolteacher Bangla Bhai was another notorious criminal who globally signified the rise of terror groups in Bangladesh. He was later caught and hanged to death. But the merchants of terror are still at large. The recent serial blast across 3 major railway stations in the country proved yet again how active the militants are across Bangladesh.

"HUJI has a huge arms and ammunition depot in the Chittagong hill track. When I left the organization there were about 12,000 armed jehadis and 30,000 more were being inducted as Mujahidins,” said Hasan Ali, the former HUJI militant.

Over the last six years, Jamaat-E-Islami—which was part of Khaleda Zia's government—has led the growth of "traditional" Islamic Madrassas, which tend to capitalize on religious sentiments to churn out fanatics. Over 2 lakh madrassas are there in Bangladesh. Out of which the famous Baitul Mokarram in the heart of capital Dhaka is accused of harbouring radicals.

In the last 6 years, under government patronage radicals openly carried out public meetings and made their intention public turn Bangladesh into a Talibanised Afghanistan.

Hasan Ali insists that Mujahideen’s who have come back from Afghanistan are now part of Jammat. But the Jammat leaders are hardly being touched by the army-controlled interim regime in their new countrywide clean-up drive.

“Jammat Islami is the umbrella organization for most of the Islamic terror organizations in Bangladesh,” says Shariyar Kabir, Human Rights activist in Bangladesh.

“It is not enough to just take action once or twice. The action has to be sustained,” Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh said.

Sources in Bangladesh say that Islamic militant groups like HUJI have now decided to change their strategy. They now plan to operate by joining in the mainstream politics. In a meeting held in Chttagong last month, they decided to merge their party with the Jaamt e Islami, which may spells more problems for India.

Bangladesh's porous borders are being increasingly used by Pakistani militants to cross over into India. Over the last 2 years many bomb blasts across India have been blamed on Bangladeshi militants. Future perhaps has more in the offing.

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