Radical Islamist extremism remains a major concern for Bangladesh. The base arises from large number of Islamist preaching in madrassah the network of which is widespread and even a small percentage spreading radical ideologies can lead to influencing a large number of youth. Main themes of a unitary Islam, rejection of the other and modernity.
Indoctrination through the web by global ideological conglomerates as the al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) has attracted middle class educated youth towards extremism. The State has been complicit in the past, but the Awami League has been effectively denying the space for radical extremism but for some slippages on account of perceived political gains. Presently two terrorist groups – the Neo Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo JMB) which proclaims affiliation to the IS and Ansur al Islam or Ansrullah Bangladesh Team professed to owe allegiance to the al Qaeda are said to be active.There are reports of the Neo JMB and cadres of the Ansar al Islam having moved to Afghanistan is a cause for concern.
There have been a number of arrests of the two groups through the year as per the International Crisis Group monthly report Crisis Watch.
Crisis Watch has recorded that anti-terrorism police on 3 Feb arrested two members of banned militant outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in Chittagong city (south east) and five alleged Allah’r Dal militants in Dhaka. Counter-terrorism police in Dhaka 4 March arrested three suspected members of banned militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami Bangladesh and three alleged supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Counter-terrorism police 4 May arrested two alleged members of banned New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh; also in Dhaka, authorities 2, 5 and 20 May detained at least six alleged Ansar al-Islam members, and 19 May arrested alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir member in Cox’s Bazar district as per the Report
In additional inputs paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion 2 May arrested four alleged members of banned Ansar al-Islam in Khulna district. In Chittagong city, counter-terrorism police 11 June arrested alleged member of banned Ansar al-Islam who recently returned from Syria where he had joined Islamic State in 2017. Authorities 11 July arrested suspected New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militant in Narayanganj district; 26 July arrested 19 Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh leaders in Chittagong, accused of planning attack on govt installations.
In counter terror action, Special anti-terrorism tribunal on 10 and 16 Feb sentenced 13 Ansar al-Islam militants to death, and one to life in prison, for 2015 murders of secular publisher Foysal Aref and U.S.-based Bangladesh blogger Avijit Roy.
Communal violence is also a major factor in internal security of the country. Hefazat protesters attacked Hindu temples, govt offices and police stations in March this year. In March again a Facebook post by Hindu man criticising Hefazat-e-Islam’s Joint Sec Gen Mawlana Mufti Mamunul Haque led to supporters of the group to vandalise more than 80 homes in Sunamganj district (east) as per Crisis Watch. Government on the other hand routinely blames opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party for the attack.
The counter terrorism arm of the Bangladesh Police and the Rapid Action Battalion a paramilitary have been active in containing terrorist activities which have included mainly bomb and grenade attacks, the last major incident being Holey Bakery in Dhaka in 2017.