Column
Grappling with Ansarullah Bangla Team militancy

24 Nov 2014

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Photo courtesy: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ansarullah-Bangla-Team/1401344523479689

Morshed Alam, an activist of militant outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), was arrested by the police from Kalyanpur area in Dhaka on November 5. He was the chief of the militant group’s media wing. Wadud Ahmed alias Jumman, another ABT activist, was arrested on November 10 from Mohammadpur area in Dhaka. US dollar 2000, Tk 2 lakh (both in cash), a laptop, CDs, DVDs and some jihadi books were seized from Jumman.
Monirul Islam, Joint Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police said that “militant posts of Ansarullah Bangla Team are spread in the internet through coded messages” and deciphering these codes was Jumman’s speciality. 
 
ABT hit the spotlight in 2013. Since then the ABT militants have been  planning attacks on police stations and other government establishments for launching jihad and their motive is to topple the government and establish ‘Khelafat’ (Caliphate) in Bangladesh.
 
Recently, ABT has claimed responsibility for the murder of Rajshahi University professor, Shafiul Islam Lilon, on a Facebook community page named ‘Ansar al Islam Bangladesh page’. The renowned social scientist known for his progressive thoughts was hacked to death outside his house in Rajshahi. Earlier, another Facebook page, run under ‘Ansar al Islam Bangladesh’, claimed responsibility for the killing of Daffodil University student Ashraful Alam on September 30. The Facebook page also warned all ‘anti-Islam’ people and non-believers of dire consequences.
 
ABT is an extremely militant group affiliated to al Qaeda. It made its presence felt in Bangladesh by ruthlessly assassinating Ahmed Razib Hyder, an architect and pro- Shahbag activist, on February 15, 2013. Salman Yaser Mahmud who masterminded the murder of Razib  was earlier an activist of Jamaat’s student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir. Another Shahbag activist Asif Mahiuddin was also attacked by the ABT militants but he miraculously escaped. 
 
The existence of ABT came to light during interrogation of five students enrolled at a private university named North South University in Dhaka. They were arrested in March 2013 in connection with the murder of Razib who was hacked to death on February 15. 
 
Razib was active in uncovering the faces of religious extremists in his blogs. He played a key role in organizing the Shahbag movement demanding execution of Islamists now on trial for atrocities and war crimes committed by them during the liberation war in 1971. The five students arrested for killing Razib, in their confessions, mentioned ABT’s spiritual leader Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani as an instigator for the murder of the blogger. Police arrested Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, along with 30 of his followers from a hideout at South Khejurtola, district Barguna.
 
Mufti Rahmani, a follower of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni spiritual leader of al Qaeda in the Arab peninsula who was killed in a US Drone attack in 2011, has been carrying out militant activities in Bangladesh for the last couple of years. The police recovered a ‘hit list’ of 12 persons from the militant Islamist leader. Razib’s name figured on the hit list.
 
Police got the first clue about ABT’s existence in Bangladesh from ‘Ansar al Mujahideen English Forum’ (AAMEF), an al Qaeda affiliated website which posted news of arrest of the five arrested students with the headlines ‘five lions of Ummah’. Further probe by a cyber crime team into the website gave clues about another website, ‘bab-ul-islam.net’ launched in Pakistan. This website reveals that Ansarullah Bangla Team was founded at North South University in Dhaka and it was modeled on Iraqi al Qaeda group Ansar-ul-Islam. 
 
Activists of ABT became active in Bangladesh towards the end of 2012 through AAMEF website advocating jihad in Bangla, Urdu and Arabic languages. This militant organization geared up its campaign for armed jihad in Bangladesh recently in its website and those who carried out murderous assault on Razib were deeply motivated by the sermon given by ABT’s spiritual leader and radical Islamist Mufti Rahmani. The radical organization mostly target students from English medium schools, colleges and universities for recruitment.
 
Mufti Rahmani’s enormous capacity to motivate youngsters for launching jihad can be envisaged from the fact that those indoctrinated by him include Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, a 22 year old Bangladeshi youth jailed in the US for 30 years in August 2013 for plotting to bomb US Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Another is Razib Karim, a computer expert working for British Airways who was jailed for 30 years in the UK for plotting to blow up a British plane in March 2011 after consulting with the Yemeni al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
 
Militants belonging to some other pro-al Qaeda groups such as Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), now banned in Bangladesh, are now operating under different banners and many of them have joined ABT. 
 
The radical group’s main base in Dhaka, Markajul Ulum Islamia, has become a rallying point for all Islamist militants including JMB and HUJI. Mufti Rahmani has more than 4000 militant followers who believe in armed jihad.
 
Dr Farid Uddin, an ophthalmologist and former Jamaat Amir of Madaripur District, disclosed after his arrest by the security forces in 2013 that he held meetings with ABT’s head Mufti Rahmani at Markajul Ulum Islamia several times to chalk out strategies and discuss how all Islamic organizations working for establishing ‘khelafat’ in Bangladesh could come under a single umbrella.
 
Following the foot steps of global terrorists in Syria and Iraq, different militant groups are now working with each other to usher in Islamic rule and make Bangladesh a Sharia-based country.
 
ABT has recently posted on its website a documentary video entitled “Eradicate Democracy”. It elaborates that democracy is not an Islamic system and it is completely in conflict with Islam. Describing those engaged in subversive activities under the name of jihad as ‘soldiers of Allah’ the documentary calls upon the people, particularly ‘patriotic armed forces’ to introduce ‘Khelafat’, adding that international laws were not applicable in Muslim land and that democracy and communism were the methods of the infidels. 
 
The documentary continues to state that ‘soldiers of Allah’ had taken up weapons to introduce Allah’s rule in the country and threatens to go for counter offensive against the authorities if the Government uses force to thwart attempts to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh. The duty of ‘Khalifa’ (Caliph), head of the Khelafat, whose function is to govern in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah, is to enforce the laws divinely promulgated. Describing the present democratic system a creation of ‘Kafer’ it appealed to the people including the armed forces to protect Allah’s laws.
 
According to US media reports, intelligence services intercepted a conference call between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and more than 20 operatives from across the group’s global network. This prompted the US and several allies to shut embassies across the Muslim world fearful of a major attack. On August 1, 2013, the US issued a world wide alert, warning of al Qaeda plans to launch an attack. The US authorities enforced closure of its mission in Dhaka on August 4, 2013. This sudden one day closure of the US Embassy in Dhaka demonstrates that international marginalization is a real danger for Bangladesh. The government will need to ensure that such threats to Bangladesh’s security, economic development and international standing are eliminated before they can take root.



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