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IS: Seeking attention in Bangladesh?

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  • December 09, 2015

    Though terror acts have increased, not many believe that they have been carried out by the dreaded group.

    The Islamic State (IS) which has emerged as a major terror group in Iraq and Syria, is now trying to expand its influence in countries like Bangladesh. It has released a map of areas which it thinks can belong to it. The terror group, in its attempt to show the presence of outfit in Bangla-desh, has been claiming responsibility for every terror incident happening in that country.

    There is no doubt that the terror incidents have increased in Bangladesh this year. But not many in the country believe that they have been carried out by the dreaded organisation. However, what is equally concerning is the western reaction to these incidents which, if anything, has only helped the cause of the IS.

    The Islamist militants in Bangladesh started their violence early this year when they killed a Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer Avijit Roy on February 27. A previously unknown group, Ansar Bangla 7, believed to be part of the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team, claimed responsibility. Subsequently, they killed three more bloggers. Though the killing of bloggers had started after the establishment of the Gano Jagaran Manch, it really picked up pace in 2015.

    The government of Bangla-desh could not act effectively against the perpetrators of the-se crimes fearing that it would be seen as anti-Islam. The Islamists in Bangladesh, who have been on back foot after Sheikh Hasina assumed power in January 2009, exploited the situation for staging a comeback.

    The law enforcement agencies did not act as promptly as was expected of them leading to a number of unfortunate incidents. This led to deterioration of law and order situation in the country. However, the situation is still much better compared to what it was during the earlier BNP – Jamaat regime.

    The concern about Islamist violence in Bangladesh has grown after the killing of a publisher and some foreigners. The killing of foreigners has given the Islamic militants the impact they were looking for. Now, the Western diplomatic community in Bangladesh is feeling unsafe. Several diplomatic missions have issued advisory to their staff to keep their movement within Bangladesh to minimum.

    The intelligence agencies of the United States claim that they had information that the IS is going to increase its activities in Bangladesh and they had informed staff of Sheikh Hasina government about it when she was in the US to address the 70th UN General Assembly meeting. It is claimed that there is disconnect between the western intelligence agencies and Bangladesh agencies which has not allowed any effective action against the militants. The Bang-ladesh government, however, argues that they have not recei-ved any actionable intelligence from the western agencies.

    The militants in Bangladesh, for the first time, attacked Shia mosques. These increased incidents of violence are of concern to both the local people as well as to the international community. The people now want the Hasina government to respond effectively to this increased violence by the militants.

    Culture of impunity
    It is feared that in the absence of a proper response from the government, a culture of impu-nity would set in Bangladesh, which could lead to more violen-ce. Thankfully, the government seems to have realised its mistake and is now acting tough ag-ainst such militants. The law enforcement agencies have killed and arrested a number of them.

    The militants are now also expanding the killing list. Initially, they said that they are targeting bloggers because they were writing blogs against Islam.

    But now they are targeting publishers, foreigners, police and Shias. They have also started targeting people who have not written against Islam but are in favour of war crime trials.

    The government claims that most of this violence is perpetrated by the local militant groups like the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangla-desh (JMB). The ABT has generally targets bloggers. On the other hand, the JMB has been attacking foreigners and Shias. Both these organisations have tried to link up with the IS. They find its ideology attractive.

    Even the IS says that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-Jamaat alliance is a ‘coalition of murtaddin (apostates)’ and that the JMB is a “proper jihad organisation in Bangladesh based on the Kuran and Sunnah.” It seems it is trying to incite other groups to resort to greater violence. IS has now consciously used the word Bengal. This has left many people wondering whether it includes Indian West Bengal too.

    The IS presently does not seem to have organisational presence in Bangladesh. However, an organisation like IS which is looking for global expansion would not be averse to expand its reach in this part of the world. Presently, there is a struggle between secularism and fundamentalism. The Hasina government so far has done a credible job of containing fundamentalism.

    The world has seen that reckless change of regime does not help to check forces of fundamentalism. A similar mistake should not be committed in Bangladesh where IS seems to be trying to get attention of local people as well as the international community.

    This article was originally published in Deccan Herald