Bangladesh, US Officials: Unable to Verify Authenticity of Al-Qaeda Video

Ashif Entaz Rabi and Prapti Rahman
Washington and Dhaka
180830-BD-Mannan-1000.jpg Bangladeshi Muslims the casket of Xulhaz Mannan, a gay rights activist, who was killed in a machete-attack claimed by Ansar al-Islam, the Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), in Dhaka, April 26, 2016.

Updated at 9:05 a.m. ET on 2018-08-31

Bangladeshi and U.S. officials say they have been unable to verify events allegedly depicted in an al-Qaeda video circulating on social media in Bangladesh, and which one expert says could be a propaganda vehicle.

The Bengali-language video claims to show seven to 10 men in Afghanistan firing missiles from a mountain high above what they purport is a military installation where Afghan and American forces are present. Two of the men in the video appear to be from Bangladesh.

Addressing the camera, one of the men thanks “those who donated money for this” and “those who are trying to join us.”

Investigators have watched the 12-minute video, Masudur Rahman, spokesman for the counterterrorist unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.

“But we do not have information that any Bangladeshi nationals went to Afghanistan from Bangladesh and posed in the video,” he said.

“Despite that, we are examining the video to assess the authenticity of the video.”

U.S. military officials also responded to questions from BenarNews.

“In reference to the video … we are unable to verify the authenticity, the claims it was shot in Afghanistan or that the attack itself involved U.S. or Coalition Forces,” Major Josh T. Jacques, an official with U.S. Central Command, said via email.

According to SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based group that monitors online communications among Muslim militant groups, the video was made by a unit called al-Jibal Media and distributed by an-Nasr. The latter is affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), al-Qaeda’s South Asia affiliate that includes a branch in Bangladesh, Ansar al-Islam.

An-Nasr primarily publishes Bengali translations of speeches by al-Qaeda officials, and an-Nasr posted links for accessing the video online on Aug. 24, said Adam Raisman, a senior analyst at SITE.

“Based on an-Nasr being the distribution source, and considering its connections, the video is authentic,” he told BenarNews in an email.

“The video is the first instance of a focus upon Bangladeshi fighters and their operations in Afghanistan. While there are dozens of productions documenting jihadi activities in the country, the nationalities of the participating fighters are rarely identified in an explicit manner such as this,” he said.

An-Nasr is just one of many pro-militant Bengali media groups, he added.

“Bengali speakers have a significant presence in the online jihadi community, and not just those associated with and supporting of al-Qaeda, but those for the Islamic State (IS), as well,” Raisman said.

In Dhaka, a Bangladeshi analyst said that militant groups use such videos as recruitment tools.

“Those who support militancy will be encouraged through this video,” A.S.M. Ali Ashraf, an associate professor at Dhaka University, told BenarNews.

“Besides, we have seen a person who was thanking the financiers. This means they are getting money and also they want to assure people who are sending money that their money is being spent for the purpose of Jihad,” he added.

In recent years, Ansar al-Islam claimed that its members had carried out machete-killings of Bangladeshi secular bloggers and a gay-rights activist, but senior Bangladesh government officials have consistently denied that either al-Qaeda or IS have a foothold in the country.

An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect byline.


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