“The reason for naming the terrorists neo-JMB and not Islamic State is not trivial. Sheikh Hasina keeps saying ‘BNP-Jamaat BNP-Jamaat,’ it builds the ground for annihilating the political opposition in the name of fighting terrorists.”
(Blogger and leader of the Shahbag Square movement)
Despite widespread acts of violence by Islamic extremists, officially Bangladesh denies the presence of international jihadist forces inside their borders. “There’s no Islamic State in Bangladesh,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says. The Holey Artisan Bakery attack made this denial a very difficult line to keep up. There has been a general uptick in violence ever since the war crimes trials started in 2013: “rioting, executions of freethinkers and bloggers, and anti-minority violence etc”. Holey Artisan was Bangladesh’s version of 9/11 and much of what’s transpired in the last year has been its own version of the War on Terror and all that it entails for democracy. The Government massively armed the police, giving them legal carte blanche to kill. The Rapid Action Battalion has been Bangladesh’s counterterror unit. Formed in 2004, it’s an autonomous paramilitary unit, responsible for crushing the old Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). It reports directly to the Prime Minister and works outside the formal structure of the police. JMB was an al-Qaeda affiliate (2001-2005). The leadership was captured, crushing the outfit. Yet the government calls the terrorists of today neo-JMB. “All of these terrorists have come out of the ranks of the Jamaat-i-Islami,” blogger Avijit Roy reasons. “It’s just their age-old duplicity that they aid terrorism and when confronted with evidence, they wash their hands off. The BNP [Bangladesh Nationalist Party, current opposition] is no different. They pretend to be all constitutional but then feed off the crimes of the Jamaat”. Dr. Ali Riaz, scholar of South Asian politics, accuses the government of political vendetta: “Why shoot and not interrogate? Why bypass the judiciary and due process? What is needed is not a police state but a program for de-radicalization.” “That’s not our job,” intelligence chief Mohibul Islam saya. “There is only one strategy for terrorism that’s followed the world over: catch, kill and crush”. The anti-terror unit’s growing list of kills has been true to that strategy.