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Bangladesh's Terror Financing Problem

Jan 09, 2012 Written by  Rajeev Sharma, New Delhi Correspondent
Money_LaunderingUnder the Prime Ministership of Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has undoubtedly cracked down on the jehadi brand of terrorism as well as terror outfits that have been needling India for years. But Dhaka needs to do more to make these efforts more effective. The Hasina government needs to clamp down on sources of funding to the militants. Here is how and why.

Militant organizations such as Jama’tul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) or Harkat ul Jehad Islam (HUJI) have now been banned but they have not been liquidated. Another set of leaders have taken over. Some training camps continue to impart both ideological and arms training. Mere banning of the radical groups will not serve the purpose. A top ranking JMB commander Mustafizur Rahman Shaheen who was recently arrested said during interrogation that JMB has not at all been liquidated with its banning, or with execution of its leaders Abdur Rahman and his deputy Bangla Bhai. He disclosed that JMB cadres were operating across the country under various banners with the mission to stage Islamic revolution.

The JMB, HUJI, and the rest of Islamic terrorist network in Bangladesh were spawned by the al Qaeda and Taliban jehadis. They were trained by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan-based major terror outfit Lashkar e Toiba (LeT). None of the umbilical cords has been cut for good. As many as twenty local and foreign NGOs, including al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) have been financing radical Islamic groups JMB and HUJI. In addition, huge funds regularly pour in every month from two Pakistani militant leaders, Sajedur Rahman and Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim. These two Pakistani militant leaders send money through Hawala channels to JMB chief Maulana Saidur Rahman. This information has been revealed by Maulana Saidur Rahman, who was arrested on May 26, 2010.

JMB chief Saidur Rahman disclosed that the JMB activists learnt operational tactics of hitting multiple targets simultaneously from the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, from whom they also acquired techniques for manufacturing explosive devices and arms. He also said that the JMB follows al Qaeda’s ideology, and works to expand and strengthen al Qaeda’s base in Bangladesh. Information about location of JMB suicide squad members was disclosed by JMB military wing chief Boma Mizan and Zaved Iqbal Mohammad, both of whom were arrested ahead of Saidur Rahman’s arrest.

Saidur Rahman disclosed that bin Laden’s International Islamic Front (IIF) has been offering financial assistance to JMB and HUJI regularly as part of its worldwide endeavour to assist all pro-al Qaeda outfits. He admitted that huge funds were provided by IIF to JMB when the former was apprised of the latter’s plan to carry out countrywide synchronized bomb blasts in Bangladesh and deployment of suicide bombers at strategic points in August 2005. Saidur Rahnan, who was former Habiganj District JEI Amir, also said that apart from IIF, JMB has also been receiving funds regularly from 20 local and foreign organizations including Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Rabeta-al-alam-al-Islami, Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, International Federation of Islamic Organizations, Islamic World Committee, Qatar-based Charitable Society, and UK-based Muslim Aid. He also said that in 2008 the two Pakistan militant leaders Sajedur Rahman and Hafiz Mohammad Ibrahim sent US $ 42 million for JMB through hawala channel.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner A.K.M. Shahidul Haque said that militant organizations regularly receive funds from expatriate Bangladeshi community settled in the US, Europe, and Middle East countries. Money is mostly received through "hundi" from these countries.

The intelligence agencies of the country have found that Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) even now works as a conduit of foreign funds. Funds are received regularly from Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya-based NGOs to the JEI accounts in the Islamic Bank of Bangladesh and then handed over to other pro-al Qaeda outfits in the country. This enables the party to indulge in money laundering and inciting the militants to take part in violent activities. The party had a plan to resort to serious violence during the last elections and made it clear to its cadres that some parliamentary seats including those of JEI Amir Matiur Rahman Nizami, Delwar Hossen Syeedi, and Shahjahan Chowdhury must be won at any cost, including assassination, if so needed. The party had also planned to resist Awami League at any cost as victory of AL in elections would spell disaster and result in virtual decimation of JEI. But this plan did not succeed as the Army-backed interim dispensation that conducted the elections stood on the way affirming that no electoral malpractices or violence would be countenanced leniently.

Internationally banned Islamic NGOs linked to terror funding were functioning in Bangladesh. These NGOs like the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), Al Harmain Islamic Foundation (AHIF), and Benevolence Society based in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Pakistan were directly linked with financing activities of the Islamic radical groups. Two RIHS officials, one from Sudan and the other from Yemen, were deported in 2006 for having channelized from Bangladesh over US $ 700,000 to local and foreign terrorist organizations. RIHS was forced to close its operations in Bangladesh thereafter. Earlier, Bank accounts of RIHS in Pakistan were sealed for its al Qaeda links. Another Islamic NGO Al Harmain Islamic Foundation had to wind up its operations in Bangladesh under US pressure as it was suspected to have funded the 9/11 al Qaeda attack.

Even former Finance Minister Saifur Rahman said that a number of bank accounts in Bangladesh were under investigation for illegal transactions. Activities of the Islamic radicals will continue unabated until the sources of funds and patronage are identified and choked forever.

Last modified on Monday, 09 January 2012 16:57

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