Bangladesh launches de-radicalization campaign for imprisoned Islamists

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Bangladesh will launch a campaign to deradicalize Islamists in prison as years of a security crackdown have weakened the strength of militant groups in the country since the 2016 terror attack on a fancy Dhaka restaurant in which 20 people, including an Indian and Another 16 foreigners were killed, officials said here Friday.

“The initiative aims to prevent imprisoned activists from returning to the path of activism,” a spokesperson for the police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTC) said as Bangladesh revisits the horror of the night of July 1, 2016 at the Holey Artisan cafe.

CTTC unit chief Mohammad Asaduzzaman said he received approval from the Home Ministry for the de-radicalization campaign to appoint psychologists, clerics and counter-terrorism experts to advise activists who were in jail or out on bail.

Under this project, the CTTC will rehabilitate 20 activists over the next year, providing them with financial support so that they can earn a living and reintegrate into society after serving their prison sentences, a- he said, adding: We will also monitor their activities.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan says 7,000 suspected militants have been arrested in connection with the counter-terrorism campaign since 2016.

Five militants, armed with guns and machetes, stormed the Holey Artisan cafe on the evening of July 1, 2016 and took diners hostage and carried out the massacre overnight, killing nine Italians, seven Japanese, one American , an Indian woman and five Bangladeshis, including two police officers.

Army commandos launched a counter-attack, killing all attackers on the spot in the early hours of July 2 and rescued survivors after 12 hours of chaos in which a restaurant worker was accidentally killed.

An Islamic State or ISIS-inclined group called Neo Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo JMB) had carried out the massacre. While IS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, Bangladesh has repeatedly denied the presence of any foreign terrorist groups in the country, blaming the incident on local terrorists.

Three years later, a court in Bangladesh in 2019 sentenced to death seven Neo-JMB members who financed the attack, provided weapons or otherwise assisted those who directly perpetrated the massacre.

Their case, however, is pending in the High Court for a mandatory remand hearing into the death. Bangladesh’s attorney general’s office said efforts were underway to speed up the process.

The attack forced Bangladesh to immediately launch a massive and protracted nationwide crackdown on militancy, engaging its specialized military and police units, including the elite Rapid Action Anti-Crime Battalion (RAB), which is also attracting army, navy and air force personnel.

A series of crackdowns killed dozens of militants, including women, some with their minor children who could not be saved during armed clashes in Islamist hideouts.

The CTTC and other security agencies said the Neo-JMB and other banned militant groups are currently losing their operational forces while some groups try to remain active on online platforms.

Former CTTC Chief and Acting Additional Inspector General of Police, Monirul Islam, had recently pointed out that like many countries, Bangladesh has also experienced a rise in radicalization and that counter-terrorism is a complex and complex task. long which requires the involvement of the whole of society.

Frequent reports of militants hiding places being discovered and their equipment being recovered indicate that they have become weak, but not inactive, said security analyst, retired Major General ANM Muniruzzaman, who heads the Bangladesh Private Institute for Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS).

Coinciding with the sixth anniversary of the Holey Artisan attack, the Counter-Terrorism Unit (ATU) released a National Activism Study Report on Friday, which noted that half of jailed activists were from low-income families.

The ATU report says 83% of the militants are from northwestern Bangladesh, still considered a backward region, with the study analyzing data from the past two decades, which indicates that JMB is the most powerful group in labor terms.

According to the study, 58.3% of the imprisoned activists belonged to the JMB, 10.27 to the Neo-JMB, 7.72 to the Ansarulla Bangla Team (ABT), 7.39 to Hizbut Tahrir, an organization composed of members from from wealthy and educated families, the Bengali newspaper Samakal reported. .

The remaining 16.32% of activists belonged to other banned groups like Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (HuJi-B), he added.

The ATU said it conducted the study among 1,217 imprisoned activists selected on the basis of random sampling. Most of them were between 31 and 40 years old.

(Only the title and image of this report may have been edited by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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