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Terrorism & Security

Islamic militancy in Bangladesh shows new signs of life

Despite crackdowns, terrorist groups are showing a persistence and resilience that worries authorities.

By David Montero / July 29, 2009



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They are the usual signs of a ticking militancy time bomb: wanted regional terrorists absconding in a sprawling metropolis. Dozens of hidden arms caches seized by police. Underground cells that change names, regroup, and plan attacks.

It sounds like wartorn Afghanistan or Pakistan. Possibly even Indonesia or the Philippines. But these developments are unfolding off the well-scrutinized jihadi path – in Bangladesh.

Militancy in Bangladesh is not of a scale or tone with Pakistan or Afghanistan. But it has shown a frightening persistence in recent years: in 2006, police and paramilitary forces systematically targeted and took down the top terrorist organization, Jamat'ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or JMB. Seven of JMB's leaders were hung in 2007. It was hoped that would end the problem, but local media reported recently that the group has merely changed its name to Islam-O-Muslim. Disturbing links to militant groups in Pakistan and India, meanwhile, continue to emerge.

Animesh Roul, executive director of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict in New Delhi, India, fretted recently about Bangladesh's reemerging militancy in the Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Monitor:

"After a relatively long period of calm, Islamist militancy in Bangladesh is showing new signs of life, even in the face of continuous crackdowns on terrorist infrastructure and activity by counterterrorism forces in the country....
One estimate suggested there were about 12,000 cadres actively operating in the country, mostly madrassa (Islamic seminary) teachers, students and clerics of mosques.... In April of this year, Bangladesh intelligence agencies declared that the Islamist terrorist groups are reorganizing with the aim of making a deadly comeback.
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