Effective counter terrorism measures by the Bangladesh security forces including the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) after the Holey Bakery complex terror attack in 2016 contained the spread of terror, deviant ideology impact a section of the youth continues to be a concern. This was evident with exposure of an Islamist terrorist and separatist nexus in Bangladesh.
Extensive arrests made by the RAB which faces sanctions by the United States for human rights violations and the CTTC in the month of October 2022 exposed the nexus which has been driven by leaders of three banned Islamist groups Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh and Ansar al-Islam and the separatist Kuki Chin nationalist group Kuki Chin Nationalist Front (KNF) from the Chittagong Hill Tract.
RAB arrested several members who are said to belong to this group from hilly areas of Bandarban and Rangamati.
Several arms were also seized with the terrorists were nine SBBL guns, 50 bullets, 62 cartridge cases for SBBL guns, six improvised explosive devices (IEDs), two cartridge belts, a locally made pistol, a walkie-talkie and 10 maps of the proposed Kuki-Chin State.
New Militant Outfit
The new militant outfit by the name of Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya (JAFHS) was formed by former members of banned Islamist groups. Formation of the JAFHS was planned in jail by leaders of three groups who had been arrested years ago.
Multiple separatist groups in the CHT may have been harbouring members of Jama'atul Ansar and allowing them to use the area to train recruits, RAB suspects.
How the Group Was Formed?
One of the planners, ShaminMahfuz, 47, a former Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh leader is seen as the key figure of JAFHS since its formation in 2019.
Shamin alias Mending Murang, 47, is well educated and was a member of the Islami Chhatrashibir due to which he was expelled from a cadet college. He is also former teacher of Bangladesh Open University who graduated from Dhaka University and was on the merit lists of SSC and HSC results. He is known in the outfit as "Sir", as per the CTTC chief as per details provided by the Daiy Star.
Shamin arrested in 2014 for his involvement with JMB as he was recruiting operatives across the country and giving them training on arms in Chittagong Hill Tracts developed contacts with Ansar al Islam operative Mainul Hasan Roxy who was jailed for possession of explosives from the capital's Darus Salam area.
Shamin and Roxy came in contact with Harkat-ul Jihad Al Islami (Huji) leader Maulana Abu Sayeed alias Dr Abu Zafar, sentenced to death in a case over the August 21 grenade attack. Roxy, also known as journalist Mithu, was arrested in 2021 for carrying out militant activities in the hills. The three are said to have planned the new outfit to escape the dragnet of surveillance and bans thus appearing under a new non de guerre.
Support by KNF
The JAFHS sought support from Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) for training and sanctuary. KNF provided advanced training to the Bangla outfit after they were initially trained in the plains. KNF was provided Tk 3 lakh per month and expenditure for food
JAFHS leaders led by Shamin, had a meeting with "separatist" organisation KNF chief Nathan Bom, also a university friend of Shamin, at a Cox's Bazar Hotel and struck a "deal" to train the group in exchange for money.
Leadership of JAFHS
RAB has identified Md Anisur Rahman alias Mahmud as the ameer or head of Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya he is still absconding.
One of the arrested Manik was a member of the Majlis-e-Shura, the highest policy-making body, member of the militant outfit and was serving as the second in command of its military wing.
Other Shura members are Abdullah Maynul, in charge of Dawah wing, Mashrur Rahman, in charge of military wing, Mosharraf Hossain, in charge of finance and media wing, Shamim Mahfuz, advisor to the outfit, and a Shyakh from Bhola, in charge of the Alem wing as per information provided by the Daily Star.
Some of the youth were inspired by Dr Shakir bin Wali, head of the Dawa department of Jama'atul Ansar.
The KNF is said to be the political organization of the small ethnic groups of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) which demands a separate State in the CHT of Bangladesh with autonomy. Initially established as Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO) in 2008 with some educated circles of the backward and disadvantaged Kuki-Chin communities (of Bawm, Pangkhua, Lushai, Khumi, Mru & Khiang) was established to promote economic development, preservation of cultural features, protect land grabbing and to establish harmony and peace in the backward region and backward small communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh as per Lt Col (Self Declared) Solomon of the KNF. Later it seems to have taken the path of violence.
Homing on to the Group
The RAB has been tracking a number of missing youth in the country as a process of counter terror surveillance. This had led to number of missing youth from the hinterland. Names of 55 youth were collected with phone numbers and addresses which gradually led to unravelling of the group in Bangladesh.
Thus while the overall terrorist situation in Bangladesh remains stable, undercurrents of radical Islamists and small separatist groups will have to be kept under watch.