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Another Pakistan-based Terror Group Exposed in Bangladesh

Dr Anand Kumar is Associate Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile
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  • March 04, 2010

    In continuing action against terror the Shaikh Hasina government in Bangladesh has arrested five Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists. Though this action will give a setback to terrorist groups operating from Bangladesh, it has also raised concerns about the actual scale of the operations of Pakistan-based terrorist groups in that country.

    The arrests were made by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) of Bangladesh from Dhaka on February 28, 2010. One of the arrested persons is a Pakistani national while the other four are his local associates. They are linked to the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. According to security officials in Bangladesh, the Pakistani, Rezwan Ahmed, had been coordinating JeM operations in the country. He was recruiting locals for the terror outfit and sending them for training in Pakistan. The trained extremists were then used for launching terror attacks in India. Ahmed was freely moving between India and Bangladesh. The four arrested Bangladeshis are - Nannu Mian alias Belal Mandol alias Billal, Abu Naser Munshi, Imad Uddin alias Munna, and Sadeque Hossain alias Khoka. The RAB has also recovered the passport of another Pakistani named Jawad. He is suspected to have fled to India.

    During interrogation Rezwan revealed that he had been trained to operate AK-47, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and explosive devices. But the most startling disclosure was made by Nannu Mian alias Belal Mandol alias Billal, who claimed that he had a role in hijacking the Indian Airlines plane in late December 1999. He had served ten years in prison in Guwahati jail, though on a different charge. After release from prison, he fled to Bangladesh and was plotting new terror strikes against India when he was caught.

    In India, security agencies are still not sure about the involvement of Billal in the IC 814 hijacking. Home minister P. Chidambaram felt that reports on the hijacking angle are "seen to be highly exaggerated". However, foreign minister S. M. Krishna said India would take up the matter with Bangladesh once Billal's identity was established. An Indian team would visit Dhaka with details of Billal's links and role in terrorist attacks and seek his deportation once these were confirmed. Billal is also wanted in the Bangalore, Surat and Hyderabad blasts.

    Meanwhile, Billal has informed that he was born in Darampur village under Sylhet Sadar in Bangladesh and is married to a woman hailing from Bashirhat, West Bengal. There are four cases pending against him in India. In Bangladesh, this group of JeM terrorists was sheltered by Mohiuddin and his brother Salahuddin who were residing in Sukanya Tower, the place from where the terrorists were arrested. Two of the locals - Munna and Khoka – detained by the police are sons of Mohiuddin Mian. Mohiuddin, who is presently president of Hajiganj union Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Chandpur, had earlier been involved in the activities of Jamaat-e-Islami. Both Mohiuddin and Salahuddin have also visited Pakistan.

    These arrests have highlighted many issues. In the ongoing crackdown against terror in Bangladesh, a large number of extremists have been arrested. Only last year, security agencies had unearthed a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module which was planning to attack the Indian high commission and the US embassy in Dhaka. This module had members from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They were also in league with the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.

    The recent arrests have brought to the fore activities of another Pakistani terror outfit, JeM, in Bangladesh. This is the first time that terrorists linked to this outfit have been arrested in Bangladesh. This has also made people wonder which other groups could be active in that country. Rezwan, the Pakistani national, was staying in the country for the last three years and operating from there. It clearly indicates the poor state of the intelligence network in Bangladesh. It is also possible that the busted module is just the tip of the iceberg.

    These arrests have also underlined the lack of cooperation among security agencies in South Asia. When Billal was released from jail in India, security agencies in Bangladesh should have been informed. Such cooperation and sharing of information between Bangladesh and India could have allowed security agencies in Bangladesh to keep tabs on the released terrorist. Probably, this was not done as security agencies of the two countries suffered from trust deficit which thankfully seems to be changing now.

    Finally, though many in Bangladesh argue that the country has unwittingly become host to such groups, the political leanings of their local hosts complicate the problem. This indicates that there is a constituency in Bangladesh which supports such elements. These extremists would create a much bigger problem for the whole region, if they get state support, as was the case during the four-party coalition rule. For the present, India can heave a sigh of relief as counter-terror cooperation seems to be increasing between the two countries.