“Bangladesh is the next favoured destination of the Al Qaeda.” From The Daily Pioneer, with thanks to Fanabba:
The global war on terrorism, it appears, is missing a critical battlefront: Bangladesh. While US-led forces are concentrating on Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, forces of terror are regrouping in Bangladesh, a perfect haven for sundry groups operating in Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and other Southeast Asian nations. After the terrorists in Pakistan came under American pressure, Bangladesh has emerged as a fertile ground for terror groups to spawn, recruit and set up training camps and strengthen their network.
Two reasons can be cited for the rise of terror in India’s east: Geography and history. Bangladesh is a country sandwiched between West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam with its southern borders flanking the Bay of Bengal. The last four States have been struggling with insurgency for more than five decades, fuelled by vested powers and armed by smuggling networks, some operating with state complicity and others independently, that run through Southeast Asian mainland. As a result, there are well-trodden arms smuggling routes through mountainous terrain that also offer enclaves for terrorist training camps. The long coastline of 580 km offers a safe route for gun-runners, smugglers, terrorists and criminal syndicates including those who indulge in human trafficking. Geography, in some ways, has shaped the history of this country.
As for history, Bangladesh, in existence for 33 years, has had a tradition of religious groups, some quite extremist in their viewpoint, jostling for political space, often left vacant by frequent bouts of political instability and military interventions. These religious groups, particularly the Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) which emerged as Bangladesh’s third largest party during the October 2001 elections capturing 17 seats in the 300-strong parliament, have gained strength in recent years as the country was dragged into impoverishment and public disillusionment caused by gross misgovernance and religious bigotry. These factors also helped terrorist groups like the Al Qaeda and its various tributaries to set up bases and operate quite freely from Bangladesh. One such group is Harkat ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI), Al Qaeda’s operating arm in South Asia, with growing links in Southeast Asia….
The troubling aspect of the rise of HuJI in Bangladesh is its links with religious groups which have been successful in gaining control over the political space in a country facing economic collapse. In the days to come, HuJI’s success in carving out a space for itself is likely to trigger a wave of copycat terrorism, with smaller religious extremist groups like Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ) taking to terror tactics for power and profit. In the process, they will help the Al Qaeda to firmly establish a network of grass-roots level groups to carry out terrorist missions. In Pakistan, the Al Qaeda has been quite successful in coopting various religious and sectarian groups to work for the larger “cause” of global terror. Bangladesh is the next favoured destination of the Al Qaeda.