Bangladesh's fight against terrorism and violent extremism is continuing despite the shock and sorrow caused by the recent terrorist attacks in Dhaka and Kishoreganj which claimed altogether 26 innocent lives, including 4 policemen.
While the Awami League Government has been very successful generally in countering terrorism and violent extremism, the recent attacks have provided the impetus for enhanced security and law enforcement efforts.
Since the attacks, the law enforcers and prosecutors have stepped up their efforts to apprehend and bring to justice those who have declared war on the state and its people. Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government has also boosted its community efforts to socially and ideologically defeat the virulent justifications put forward by the terrorists and extremists for their dastardly acts. The Awami League led 14 Party Alliance has also started its political campaign to put a united front against terrorists with the participation of people from all walks of life.
This special report looks at the recent legal, political and social steps taken or initiated by the Awami League led government and Awami League as a party.
Charges Brought: Bangladesh has continued to prosecute those accused of terrorism and violent extremism. For a list of the progress in earlier cases, click here. As many as 12 cases out of a total of 37 cases filed against the militants, including the Japanese national Kunio Hoshio and Italian Caesar Tabella murders, were disposed of by submitting charge-sheets before courts. The rests of the cases are under investigation. As is noted below, several arrests have been made as regards the cases under investigation. Notable charge framings in recent times include:
i) - On 30 June, 2016, police filed charge sheet against six members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for shooting Ruhul Amin, a Bahai community leader in Rangpur in November last year. They were also involved in the killing of Japanese national Kunio Hoshi and Khadem Rahmat Ali in Rangpur's Kaunia upazila on October 3 and November 10 respectively and charge sheets were filed on July 3 accusing eight and 14 JMB men.
ii) Charges were brought against 14 suspected members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for their alleged involvement in the killing of a Khadem (supervisor) of a Mazar (shrine) in Kaunia upazila of Rangpur last year. The investigation officer of the case, submitted the charge sheet to a Rangpur court on July 3.
iii) On 10 July, 2016 police submitted charge sheet in connection with the killing of Joggeshwar Roy, who was killed by militants at Debiganj in Rangpur. The people who have been made accused in the charge sheet are Jahangir Hossain, Rajibul Islam, Md Saddam Hossain, Md Nazrul Islam, Md Alamgir Hossain, Md Ramjan Ali, Md Harez Ali, Khalilur Rahman, Md Rana and Md Shafiul Alam. They belong to banned militant outfit JMB and so-called student-wing of Jamaat E Islami, Islami Chatroi Shibir. Three accused of the case have already confessed to killing of the priest.
iv) On 10 July, 2016, police in Kawnia, Rangpur submitted charge sheet indicting eight militants of Jama'atul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) after investigation into the murder case of Japan's citizen Hoshi Kunio. Three of these militants have already been put behind bars by the law enforcers. The Japanese national was killed in October, 2015.
Arrests Made: The security forces in Bangladesh have continued their raids for apprehending those involved in terrorism, militancy and violent extremism. Some such notable drives/arrests include:
- In a weeklong drive against terrorists and militants starting from June 10, 2016 Bangladesh's security forces arrested 194 suspects, including those belonging to banned outfits like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ansarullah Bangla Team, Ansar-Al-Islam, Harqat-Ul-Jihad, Allaher Dal etc. During the drive, police also recovered arms and ammunitions and literature promoting violent extremism and terrorism from the possession of those arrested.
- On 5 July, police arrested three female members of outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) at Kalihati upazila in Tangail. Acting on a tip off, law enforcers raided a house near the level crossing at Jokarchar in Kalihati and arrested the women. They also seized two machetes, one knife, a mobile phone containing videos of slaughtering techniques and a script containing techniques of making bombs from their possession. A case was filed against the women and their husbands with Kalihati police under the anti-terrorism act.
- On July 11, 2016, police arrested four suspected members of banned militant outtfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) from Sitakunda area of Chittagong. Upon receiving a tip, a team of police conducted a drive in the area and arrested them. The law enforcers also recovered some hand made weapons from their possession. For security purposes, the identity of the arrestees have not been revealed.
- On 12 July, 2016, police arrested a female Jamaat leader and six Islami Chhatra Shibir leaders and activists and recovered 21 crude bombs and extremist books from their possession in Tangail and Dinajpur.
- On 13 June, 2016, police arrested four suspected militants and recovered one shutter gun, three rounds of bullets, one empty cartridge, and some extremist books from their possessions at Koyra Upazila of Khulna.
- On 14 July, 2016, Rapid Action Battalion arrested two suspected operatives of the banned militant outfit, the Jam’aatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB). Pistols, ammunition and hand bombs were recovered from the possession of the two suspected terrorists, arrested from Uttara Dhaka.
Enhanced Security Measures
- The law enforcement agencies have been asked to ensure adequate security and safety measures for the importers, exporters and foreigners and key installations in the country. They were also asked to remove unauthorized and illegal educational institutions, hotels, restaurants, guest houses from Gulshan and other residential areas of the capital immediately.
- The law enforcement agencies have been asked to ensure adequate security and safety measures at the key-point installations (KPI), important establishments, railway stations and throughout the rail-tracts, public places, bus-stops, launch terminals and other places where people usually assemble.
- Security measures have been tightened at all domestic and international airports to ensure safety of air travelers. From now on passengers would have to go through multiple layers of security checks before entering the airport premises and boarding a plane in the country's three international and 12 domestic airports that are operating 38 airlines within and outside the country.
- On July 11, 2016, Bangladesh's elite crime fighting force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), today introduced a mobile apps 'Report 2 RAB' aimed at facilitating the people to send information and photos of criminal activities of their localities that help the force to effectively fight terrorism and militancy. The people using the apps can inform RAB of criminal activities, militancy, terror attacks, missing person's whereabouts, murder, robbery, drug trading, abduction and other crimes of their localities, an official release said. People can install the apps from the official website of RAB (www.rab.gov.bd). Besides, the apps will be available in the Google Playstore. The app has option for maintaining confidentiality of those sending the information.
The Awami League-led 14-party organized a protest at Central Shaheed Minar (Language Monument) on 11 July, 2016 to protest the terror attacks at Gulshan, Dhaka and Sholakiya, Kishoreganj. Attended by thousands of party leaders, workers and supporters, and general students and citizens the alliance of all democratic and progressive parties of Bangladesh reaffirmed their stance against terrorism, militancy and violent extremism, and vowed to safeguard secularism and non-communalism. It was also announced that they would facilitate and promote guardians' and women's rallies in Dhaka on July 20 and 21 respectively protesting the recent militant attacks and communal violence.
The Awami League-led alliance also announced the formation of anti-terrorism committees at every locality and village across the country from July 12 to July 30. Teachers, doctors, Imams of mosques, purohits (priests) of temples and elite of the society will be inducted as members of the committees which will assist the law enforcement agencies to build a country free from militancy and terrorism. The 14-party alliance led by Awami League is also set to stage rallies at different upazilas and districts after July 24 against terrorism, militancy, anarchy and secret killings.
- The government has directed all public prosecutors across the country to strenuously object to bails being granted to suspects in terrorism and militancy cases.
- The Education Ministry has asked the educational institutions to inform the Ministry of the students who are absent for more than 10 days from the institutions. The government is also regularly sitting with the authorities of private and public universities to ensure that radicalization cannot take root in places of academia.
- Sermons delivered by the Imams of the mosques during Jumma prayers would be monitored. The Imam's have been requested to deliver their speeches in accordance to the tenets of Islam and discourage any kind violence being perpetrated in the name of religion.
- Imams of mosques across the country today delivered "Khutba" (sermon) before and after Jumma prayers highlighting the directives of the Holy Quran and Hadith against militancy and terrorism on 15 July, 2016. The Khutba cautioning the countrymen against unrest, militancy and terrorism was delivered almost at all the mosques across the country, including the capital, during Jumma prayers. Islamic foundation earlier sent the copy of Khutba to all mosques across the country. The imams, during the Khutba in the Jumma prayers, urged parents and guardians to keep a watchful eye on their children's movement as well as the movement of strangers in their locality.
- The government has already opened a monitoring cell to receive complaints and take necessary actions to check the activities that are considered provocative as it was reported that some of controversial speeches inspired militants to be involved in unleashing terrors. IN line with that policy, the government has already banned the transmission of the controversial Peace TV after it transpired that some of the militants and terrorists were influenced by the contents of some lectures being aired by some preachers.
- The telecom regulator, Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), has decided to build the capability to block internet access in a certain area within minutes under special circumstances, for times of emergency such as terrorist attacks. It now takes around 3-4 hours to do so, and the government wants to boost its capacity to take desired step within 10 minutes to one hour.
- The government has announced that it will reward the field-level officials and employees of the Local Government, Rural Development (LGRD) and Cooperatives for providing information on militants. Directives have been given for providing special messages and reinforcing the security arrangement of different bodies and directorates under the Rural Development and Cooperative division to check any possible militant attack.
HPM Sheikh Hasina's Stance
After the recent terror attacks, HPM Sheikh Hasina reiterated her 'zero tolerance' policy towards terrorism, militancy and violent extremism. On various occasions since then, she made it abundantly clear that her resolve to fight the menaces have only been multiplied by the tragedies.
Address to Nation: Following the attack in Dhaka, HPM Sheikh Hasina addressed the nation on national television for all to see. There she made some key observations on terrorism and extremism. She stated that at a time when Bangladesh is emerging on the world map as a self-respecting and self-reliant country, a national and international vested quarter has taken it upon them for thwarting that progress. She expressed confidence that the peace loving people of Bangladesh will never allow the design of these conspirators to succeed. She pledged to protect at any cost the sovereignty and independence of Bangladesh which was won at the price of the lives of 3 million martyrs and the sacrifices of 200,000 war heroines.
She cautioned that while the number of miscreants is small, we need to be united in our fight against them. She urged all to come forward in our fight against terrorism at district and sub-district levels through involvement of anti-terrorism committees, community policing and members of the community at large. She also requested the parents to give their children good education. She requested them to keep an eye on them so they don’t deviate to the wrong path. She also said to those who have already strayed, to come back to the correct path and maintain the dignity of the religion.
She expressed her firm determination that by completely uprooting the terrorists, we will establish the country as a peaceful one. She hopes that no conspiracy can hamper Bangladesh's march forward. She asked all to forget all divisions and work united for a safe and secure Bangladesh and a Golden Bangla as envisaged by the Father of the Nation.
Directions to Officials: Following the Dhaka and Sholakiya terror attacks, HPM Sheikh Hasina held a number of video conferences, whereby she gave directions to district level officials of the country regarding tackling terrorism and violent extremism, such as:
1. The people have full cooperation towards the government's strides for eliminating terrorism and militancy, and the twin devils will have to be uprooted through united efforts of all.
2. The people's strength is the "biggest power". So the patrons of terrorism and militancy will have to be tracked down with the cooperation of the people of all classes and professions.
3. The responsible persons, especially the teachers, will have to play a pioneering role in keeping vigilant about the activities of the youths.
4. The village police and community police will have to inform the administration if they notice any stranger in their locality.
5. The anti-terrorism and militancy campaign will have to be geared up and the community policing will have to be strengthened.
6. Medical treatment for the derailed youths will have to be arranged, if necessary, if they get drug-addicted.
7. The core committees formed at divisions, districts, upazilas, unions and wards would keep vigilant on militant activities along with other committees related to law and order.
8. These committees would work with pro-liberation forces to create mass awareness against militancy and terrorism.
9. Campaign against terrorism and militancy will have to be carried out at all mosques across the country.
10. Work will have to be done with secular spirit so that bondage of harmony remains unharmed.
11. Security for the foreigners working on development projects will have to be ensured.
12. Parents, guardians and teachers to be careful about movement of students and children so that they could not be derailed by the patrons of evil forces.
13. The existing communal harmony will have to be maintained as it as a beauty of the nation.
Press Conference: Following her return from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia after attending the 11th Summit of ASEM, on 17 July, 2016, HPM Sheikh Hasina appeared in a press conference, where she made some comments on terrorism and extremism. The key points include:
- Militancy and terrorism is not a concern of any single country any more. The whole world is reeling from the dreadful situation and a global consensus has already taken shape against the terrorists and militants.
- In Bangladesh, a national consensus has been created among the people against terrorism and extreme violence, except those who have links with militancy and terrorism and have records of war crimes and burning people alive.
- Awami League government is giving importance on sharing intelligence information with foreign countries to identify the persons behind radicalization of youths as well as their financier, arms suppliers and trainers.
- The role of Bangladesh in establishing peace and rule of law has got special recognition internationally. Bangladesh ready to take help in terrorism issues from any friendly country whenever that is required.
- Awami League government taking all sorts of measures to check recurrence of further terrorist attacks in the light of its "zero tolerance policy" against terrorism.