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Bangladesh's Islamist groups: 'Sheikh Hasina has chosen to turn a blind eye'

By Indrani Roy
July 03, 2016 12:49 IST

'I have noticed how a certain country wants to establish the presence of ISIS in Bangladesh.'
'Are these terrorists working under some religious inspiration or they are being lured by an obnoxious amount of money?'
'For some mysterious reasons, no action is taken by the government against suspicious organisations.'
Bangladesh journalist Nazrul Kabir discusses the Dhaka carnage with Rediff.com's Indrani Roy.

Bangladesh security personnel outside the restaurant. Photograph: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Getty Images

IMAGE: Bangladesh security personnel outside the restaurant. Photograph: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Getty Images

Senior Bangladesh journalist, activist and writer Nazrul Kabir, who has covered terrorism for years, spent Saturday, July 2, covering the hostage crisis and its aftermath at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka's upscale Gulshan area.

The terror attack left 20 dead and many injured.

Five attackers were killed in the Bangladesh army operation. One injured terrorist is in police custody.

According to some reports, two terrorists escaped.

On his way back late on Saturday evening, Kabir shared with Rediff.com's Indrani Roy his observations about the murderous terrorist attack.

Terrorists chose a Friday and the month of Ramzan for this attack. Does Islamic State intend to send out a signal to the Bangladesh government?

I don't want to read too much into this Ramzan and Friday issues.

To CNN, it was a Black Friday, to us, it was a sad day.

It's still highly debatable whether there is ISIS in Bangladesh.

I have been working as a journalist for decades.

I have noticed how a certain country wants to establish the presence of ISIS in Bangladesh.

My country has seen violence for quite some time.

There have been severe repercussions over the prosecution and subsequent hanging of Bangladeshi war criminals.

Charges against one such war criminal and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mir Quasem Ali's prosecution is under review at the moment.

And we, the common people of Bangladesh, were apprehensive of some major 'incident' here.

Moreover, photos of the Gulshan terrorists released by the police to the media clearly indicate that they were Bangladeshis who featured in the police's most wanted lists for long.

Some media reports say the attackers were conversing in Hindi and chanting Allah Hu Akhbar.

A particular section of the media with a distinct political affiliation is desperate to prove the Gulshan terrorists' foreign links.

Without any concrete proof, some newspapers are even reporting that the attackers hailed from India.

Such reportage is irresponsible and baseless and should be boycotted.

I think the Holey Artisan Bakery incident is an attack against the present government of Bangladesh; it's a challenge posed at the secular forces.

Quite a few Hindu priests have been killed recently. Who has killed them?

We need to find out.

You think ISIS does not exist in Bangladesh?

I don't want to get into that debate.

From the experience that I have gathered as a journalist, I can tell you I don't find any similarity between the carnage that we identify ISIS with and that which took place in Dhaka.

There is a possibility, however, that small militant outfits operating in Bangladesh intend to align with Al Qaeda and ISIS and want to draw their attention.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, according to its media branch Amaq.

While this has been reported in some section of the Western media, I have reasons to doubt this.

Who created Al Qaeda and ISIS?

It's time we asked ourselves these questions.

The Holey Artisan Bakery incident needs to be dealt with very seriously.

One needs to find out what is motivating youth to join the militant outfits.

Are they working under some religious inspiration or they are being lured by an obnoxious amount of money?

One also needs to probe if any national or international group is conspiring against the government of Bangladesh.

Let us not forget that the economy of Bangladesh has been improving significantly in recent times.

Is there some conspiracy to cast a shadow over the country's economy?

Let us also not forget that there has been a series of attacks against our prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the recent past.

What do the police say?

Inspector General of Police A K M Sahidul Haque has told the media that all five terrorists who have been killed during the army operation were Bangladeshis.

The terrorist who has been captured alive will be an important source of information, right?

I hope the Bangladesh police and security forces work efficiently in this regard.

Don't you have confidence in them?

(Pauses).

The police recently claimed to have arrested Khaled Saifullah alias Jamil alias Afif Kaifi, the mastermind of the machete attack on Madaripur college teacher Ripon Chakrawarty.

According to sources, soon after the arrest, certain militant outfits have made some demands to the police. These are:

  • Khaled Saifullah should be freed;
  • He should be given safe passage
  • It should be declared that he is associated with a group that is spearheading the Islamist movement in Bangladesh.

These are, however, unconfirmed reports. There has been no statement from the government as yet.

It is being heard that the attackers killed non-Bangladeshis and that they freed those who could recite the Holy Quran or were clad in burqa.

This is also propaganda by a part of the media.

If the attackers intended to kill only non-Banglaeshis, why was Ishrat Akhond, a human resources director at a private firm, killed?

She was known as one of the finest human beings.

Another victim, Transcom chief Latifur Rahman's daughter Simeen Hossain's youngest son, Faraaz Hossain, was a devout Muslim.

The third victim Abinta Kabir's father is the son of Manzur and Nilu Murshed of Lavender, a super store in Gulshan.

Are we to assume all these people could not chant verses from the Quran?

Gulshan is a diplomatic area. How did the terrorists enter that high security zone?

A highly placed government source told me that there are numerous close circuit television cameras in the Gulshan area barring a narrow strip of road along the lake.

There is a possibility that the terrorists might have used that route.

It also needs to be found out if they carried the weapons with them or if they had a source inside the bakery.

All these issues need to be investigated.

What is your opinion on the recent killings of bloggers, secular voices, Hindu priests etc? Who are behind these murders?

Bangladesh Intelligence came to know that BNP (the Oppostion Bangladesh Nationalist Party) joint secretary Aslam Chowdhury recently had a meeting in India with Mossad's representative.

Chowdhury was arrested on his return to Bangladesh. The matter is sub judice.

During interrogation, Chowdhury said he had met Mossad's representative to set up an international forum to fight the attack on minorities in Bangladesh.

Does the killing of minorities here have any link to this so-called 'meeting'?

This question keeps haunting me.

It is to be noted that the Bangladesh police recently have charged seven people, including senior BNP leader M A Kayum for their alleged involvement in the murder of an Italian aid worker Ceasre Tavella last year.

Therefore, all these so-called 'target killings' have strong political links.

In an interview, Professor Ajoy Roy, father of slain Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, told me that many NGOs fund militant outfits in Bangladesh. Is it true?

Of course! Sources told me that huge amounts of money were distributed in the villages through two NGOs.

While working as a reporter in 2004-2005, I found out that four mosques were built in a remote Chittagong village with that money.

At that time, the infamous terrorist, Siddique ul-Islam, also known as Bangla Bhai, was hiding there.

Villagers told me that Bangla Bhai indoctrinated 10 suicide squad members in those mosques.

I had interviewed the father of one of the members of that suicide squad in early 2000. The man told me, 'My son got derailed while studying at a madrassa.'

Many NGOs in Bangladesh fund terrorist outfits. There is no doubt about it.

Why does the government not take action against these NGOs?

Secularists have a lot of grievances against the present Awami League government on this.

Because of some mysterious reasons, no action is taken against these suspicious organisations.

Professor Abul Barkat, a senior professor at Dhaka University, researched the funding methods of Bangladeshi terrorist groups.

Professor Barkat stated that Islamic political parties have so far invested in 13 different economic sectors, including finance, insurance, retail, education, real estate, communication, media, health care and pharmaceuticals.

But the present government just chooses to turn a blind eye.

Do you fear many more terror attacks in Bangladesh in the future?

It is difficult to foresee anything as far as Bangladesh is concerned.

We could never imagine that the architect of Bangladesh's freedom Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family would be assassinated.

The killers would kill, terrorists will unleash violence, but the spirit of the common people can never be smothered.

We, the people of Bangladesh, are free, alive and determined to fight this attack against humanity.

This morning, the people of Bangladesh gathered at the Press Club and formed a human chain.

They vowed to fight against terror of every form.

Do you think this incident will affect India-Bangladesh ties?

As I said, some media organisations are trying to portray that some of these attackers were Indians.

During the War of Independence (the movement to free the then East Pakistan), the freedom fighters were tagged as 'agents of Russia and India.'

The intent is loud and clear.

I know that the Indian Constitution is a secular one and that it believes in the spirit of democracy.

There is a strong bond of camaraderie between the two countries that can never be broken.

Indrani Roy / Rediff.com in Kolkata
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