Jai Kumar Verma: Countering IS expansion must become priority for Bangladeshi authorities
28 March 2016. PenzaNews. The authorities of Bangladesh – a country with the third-largest Muslim population in the world – must focus on the threat posed by Islamic State (IS, Daesh in Arabic; banned in Russia) and do everything in their power to stop the terrorist expansion, writes Jai Kumar Verma, Delhi-based strategic analyst, in his article “Making its way into Bangladesh: Islamic State needs to be stopped at the gate” published in the foreign media.
According to him, radical Islamists already managed to entrench in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continue to quickly amass influence in South Asia by polluting the minds of the young.
“IS uses social sites vigorously for recruitment and propagation of Islamic extremism, has put jihadist literature and training manuals on the Internet,” the author explains.
In his opinion, the signs of activity by the terrorists, who first arrived to the western borders of South Asia about a year ago, can now be seen in Bangladesh – a country of residence for 160 million Muslims, most of them Sunnis.
“Not a long ago, the United States had claimed that Islamic State is looking to penetrate into Bangladesh and is intensifying its presence in the country through various means and measures. Bangladesh, which has the third largest Muslim population in the world, had dismissed the information and proclaimed that few terror incidents here and there do not indicate strong presence of IS. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, who has been ruling the country for more than 7 years now, rejected these claims and observed that all the allegations about the presence of Islamic State are nothing but a part of a smear campaign which has been launched against her by those in the opposition,” Jai Kumar Verma reminds.
However, he points out that IS had taken responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks, including a murder of an Italian aid worker, murders of several bloggers, an assault on a Japanese agriculturist, and a series of bomb blasts in a Shia mosque in Dhaka during an Ashura holiday celebration that resulted in a 12-year-old dead and more than 100 injured.
According to the analyst, the local Bangladeshi terrorist outfits are already taking the side of the IS, driven by promises of brutality, power and money.
“While Bangladeshi Muslims are certainly less fundamentalists than their Pakistani counterparts, but several Islamic terrorist organizations including Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh have either joined IS or are ready to accept its allegiance. Ansarullah Bangla Team, which was established in 2007 as a unit of Al-Qaeda [banned in Russia], changed its allegiance to IS, and Muhammad Aminul Islam Baig, an important IS operative who has recruited more than 25 Bangladeshis for IS, was arrested in Dhaka in May 2015. […] A newly constituted terrorist outfit, Jund al-Tawheed wal Khilafah, that has launched a recruitment drive in Bangladesh, has announced that it will help in establishing the Islamic Caliphate in the South Asian region, with Bangladesh being integral to that territorial expanse,” the observer points out.
Moreover, Jai Kumar Verma writes, there are reports that Jama’atul Mujahideen has created a number of training camps and has enough resources to organize a series of attacks in the country, while the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, an outfit that brings together a number of local terrorist groups, might soon provide support to the Islamists.
He stresses the fact that the growing influence of Daesh in the region also poses a threat to Europe, which is still currently in shock after the recent acts of terror.
“Large numbers of Bangladeshis are working in the Middle East and are residing in the United Kingdom, France, Australia and several other developed countries. There are reports that few of these people of Bangladeshi origin have joined the IS and have gone to Syria to join its ranks. People of Bangladeshi origin settled in European countries also allure Bangladeshis to join Daesh,” the author explains.
In his opinion, Bangladesh right now appears to be an ideal platform for IS, all due to increasing fundamentalism, corruption, polarization of security personnel, apathy towards law and order, weak judicial system, presence of several terror outfits, and conflicts among political rivals.
“The execution of a few Jamaat-e-Islami [group banned in Russia] leaders for their offenses committed during the 1971 war of independence has also united extremists against the present regime, making it all the more possible that their vendetta becomes a medium for the IS and its sympathizers to penetrate further into the country,” the observer writes.
According to him, the aforementioned facts require the Bangladesh government to accept the reality and adopt measures to counter the Islamists and stop their expansion, all while not falling into a sense of false security – as otherwise terrorists will gain control over the territory that serves as a home to an enormous Muslim community.
“Sheikh Hasina has launched a de-radicalization campaign under which the security agencies have closed training camps run by terrorist outfits, arrested the probable extremists and prohibited access of foreign terrorists to them by putting them under detention. The administration has also removed the IS page and Jihadi literature from internet, including Facebook and YouTube. These mechanisms of defense should also be supplemented by proactive measures, such as those that can enable the Bangladesh security agencies to counter the malicious propaganda of the IS with active advocacy for de-radicalization. After all, in the time and age for soft power, biting the bullet would not do much,” Jai Kumar Verma stresses.
He also thinks it necessary for the government to create a detailed plan to counter terrorist organizations, which must include mass awareness drives, youth rehabilitation programs, and measures for prompt investigation of attacks and early punishment to the culprits.
“IS is an international terrorist outfit, hence Bangladesh should seek help from other countries – especially neighboring countries, including India. Signing a counter-terrorism initiative with the United States in 2013 is a good beginning. The security forces should also be strengthened and equipped with latest electronic gadgets. The capability and accessibility of intelligence organizations should also be enhanced, so that they can provide prior and actionable intelligence,” the analyst urges.
In his opinion, Bangladesh is currently progressing well economically, and the government is able to create enough jobs to protect its youth from Daesh recruiters and therefore hinder the further expansion of Islamic State.