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    OpinionsBangladesh cannot go soft on terror

    Bangladesh cannot go soft on terror

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    Bangladesh cannot go soft on terror

    Shantanu Mukharji

    Delhi and Dhaka must intensify intelligence operations and unleash a joint surveillance on suspects to address the menace.

    IS-inspired terrorists in Bangladesh refuse to scale down, albeit for tactical reasons, their terror plans and have been striking at regular intervals despite the Sheikh Hasina government's relentless campaign against terrorism.

    It would appear from the pattern of the attacks perpetrated by the Jamaitul Mujahdeen Bangladesh (JMB) – commencing from July 1 at a Dhaka cafe causing multiple fatalities, closely followed by the attack on an Eid congregation on July 7, and most recently on December 24 (where a woman and a teenager blew themselves up during a police raid) – that the outfit is clearly growing in strength and making its presence felt.

    The most disturbing feature, however, in the December 24 episode was the involvement of a female suicide bomber named Shakira, who blew herself up while her seven-year-old daughter was providentially rescued by the counter-terror team. This shows how desperate and committed the suicide bomber was that she even risked the life of her daughter in the siege.

    Amid these developments of disquiet and continued threats of Islamic terror, several members of the JMB were arrested on December 28 from Darus Salam, Mirpur, North of Dhaka.

    Meanwhile, due to apparent ‘operational' differences within the JMB hierarchy, a new offshoot referred to as the Neo-JMB has come into being. It's not only the nomenclature which is making the difference. The entire modus operandi seems to be undergoing a radical change which has a distinct and inedible footprint of the IS.

    For example, neo-JMB female Islamic cadres are now more active and playing a pivotal role. Also, women are being allegedly used as “sex slaves” by this outfit, a practice followed by the IS in Syria and Iraq, and the Boko Haram in Nigeria. Further, women are allowed multiple husbands or partners with plenty of freedom for their escapades.

    While women in Bangladesh are emancipated and performing constructive roles in the society and polity, one segment of the women force are blatantly taking recourse to offensive terrorism. Shakira is the latest case in point. And the trend appears to continue by incessantly drawing induction of young and educated women to the terrorist fold.

    Now let's go back to the latest neo-JMB arrests. Rakib, Bapi, Opu, Ehsan, Shohag and Himel, the prime offenders, have since been remanded to police custody for 10 days and are currently under interrogation. Sustained questioning is very likely to shed additional light to the whole blueprint as the arrested terrorists were planning a major devastating strike on the New Year's eve.

    Among those arrested, Rakib was in Kolkata recently and contacted one Sunny (possibly an alias) seeking instructions for terror assaults. According to highly placed sources in the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) – the premier intelligence agency of Bangladesh – Sunny (a Bangladeshi) is in hiding in Kolkata and is issuing diktats, at the behest of the IS, to the Bangladesh cadres.

    We, therefore, see an angle. The DGFI suspects that a section of pro-IS cadres in India (specifically in Kolkata) is in active league with the neo-JMB. This calls for a detailed scrutiny by the Indian intelligence outfits, specially the NIA, to bust the syndicate, if in operation. The infamous Burdwan blasts in West Bengal have already proved the nexus. Against this backdrop, it would seem advisable if Indian interrogators join the Dhaka team in the ongoing questioning of the arrested terrorists.

    A huge cache of explosives has also been recovered. It would be indeed useful to ascertain the source of supply of such explosives, funding and connections. A joint interrogation should be of immense help.

    Meanwhile, close to Indian borders off Murshidabad, Zia, Haider and Shahidullah are acting as neo-JMB commanders overseeing activities on the Indo-Bangladesh borders. Proximity to India remains a dangerous trend making the porous frontiers hugely vulnerable. Their activities need to be delved and monitored regularly.

    Mainul Islam Musa, a powerful and tech-savvy Neo-JMB activist who is also high in the hierarchy, is believed to be complicit in planning to target some of Indian infrastructures as well. Once an English teacher, he earlier deleted all his friends' profiles on Facebook trying not to leave any trails of evidence. Some meticulous planning seems to be on the anvil.

    Such activities need to be carefully pieced together to arrive at a clear picture enabling the professional agencies to draw up a plan to neutralise the terror designs and possible execution with military precision.

    Subsequently, with an intensified intelligence, both India and Bangladesh must unleash a joint and robust surveillance on the suspects to address the menace so that it's timely and decisive.

     

    The author is a retired IPS officer who has held key positions in the Government of India handling sensitive security issues within and outside India.

    Northlines
    Northlines
    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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