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US applauds AL govt’s zero tolerance to terrorism

Published : 03 Dec 2023 04:57 PM | Updated : 03 Dec 2023 04:57 PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other Bangladeshi government officials concerned have frequently emphasised Bangladesh’s zero-tolerance policy on terrorism, while Bangladesh continues to deny the presence of globally organised jihadist militant groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, according to a report released by the US government on Friday.  

The US State Department’s Counter Terrorism Bureau published the “Country Reports on Terrorism 2022” on Friday, in which it highlighted Bangladesh’s effective counter-terrorism efforts, attributing the success to its strong zero-tolerance policy.

Throughout 2022, Bangladesh experienced few instances of terrorist violence as authorities continued to pursue militants rigorously, particularly al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), and an ISIS-affiliated JMB offshoot, Neo-JMB, said the report.

In October, Bangladesh authorities announced operations to disrupt Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya (JAHS), an allegedly al-Qaeda inspired group. US-trained Bangladesh police units arrested dozens of terrorist suspects.

In October, the Bangladeshi counterterrorism Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) announced operations to disrupt JAHS, an allegedly al-Qaeda-inspired group training in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) to carry out attacks elsewhere. 

Authorities alleged that JAHS cooperated with the Kuki-Chin National Front, an ethnic separatist militant organization. Authorities announced the arrest of dozens of JAHS members throughout the rest of the year.

The Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTCU) of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, the Antiterrorism Unit (ATU) of the National Police, and the RAB continued raids against and arrests of suspected terrorists.

The CTTCU investigated 27 cases, conducted 27 operations, and made 61 arrests, mostly in Dhaka. The Chattogram Metropolitan CT police responded to multiple incidents and made several arrests. 

The ATU, though continuing to develop its nationally mandated CT capabilities, increased its performance, completing 27 investigations and carrying out 42 operations that resulted in 45 arrests.  

The report acknowledges that Bangladesh cooperated with the United States to strengthen its internal security and response to terrorism.  The US government provided various forms of assistance to CTTCU, the ATU, and other police units around the country. The US government also provided training to Antiterrorism Tribunal (ATT) judges and prosecutors courses on handling evidence, conducting investigations, and prosecuting terrorists and terrorist financing cases.

Bangladesh has the capacity to patrol land and maritime borders and has improved cargo and passenger screening with updated equipment, procedures, and increased staff. Bangladeshi authorities implemented notable improvements in port security, particularly at Bangladesh’s principal port in Chattogram.

Bangladeshi authorities also undertook planning to implement effective security measures at a new international airport terminal currently under construction in Dhaka and procured appropriate high-quality equipment.

The country shares information with INTERPOL but has no national terrorist watch-list.  Special Branch has its own internal watch-list that provides read-only privileges to the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence and the Directorate General of National Security Intelligence.  

Bangladesh is host to more than one million Rohingya refugees.  Though violence in the camps remained a concern and Bangladeshi officials publicly highlighted the potential of refugee radicalization to increase terrorist group recruitment and violence, no information emerged about significant terrorist threats from the camps in 2022.

In 2019 the ATT sentenced seven terrorists to death for their supporting roles in the 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack. The Supreme Court still has not ruled on their appeal. The seven ATTs carried a caseload of about 680 cases, a slight decrease from 2021.  

A National Intelligence Agency court on June 3 sentenced Mohammed Masiuddin, aka Abu Musa — an ISIS and JMB member — to life in prison for involvement in a 2014 IED explosion in Khagragarh, India.

In March, ATT in Sylhet sentenced four men to death for the 2015 murder of blogger and writer Ananta Bijoy Das, who had promoted secularism in the Muslim-majority country. In August, ATT in Chattogram sentenced five members of banned militant outfit JMB to death for the 2015 Chattogram naval base bomb blasts.

Bangladesh is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. Its FIU, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant changes in 2022.