The Bangladeshi government on Wednesday banned the militant group Allahr Dal (Allah’s Party) after officials thwarted a plot to spring its leader from prison and launch terror attacks in the country, a senior cabinet minister said.
The ban became official when the Public Security Division announced it through the official gazette, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told BenarNews.
“A document related to imposing the ban on Allahr Dal has been approved,” Khan said. “From now on, it has been banned officially.”
Allahr Dal became the eighth extremist group to be outlawed in Bangladesh. Seven other groups, including Jam’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), were banned in recent years.
Khan said authorities had determined that Allahr Dal, which once started as a small group in northern Gaibandha district, was attempting to bolster its ranks in Dhaka and in the southeastern coastal city of Chattogram by distributing extremist pamphlets.
“They’re trying to stage sabotage in the country. On the basis of such information, the militant group has been banned,” Khan said.
JMB leaders had tasked Allahr Dal members to hurl bombs on Aug. 17, 2005, when around 500 small improvised explosives went off in 300 locations in the country, Monirul Islam, chief of the Bangladeshi police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes unit, told BenarNews.
“They carried out bomb attacks in some places,” Islam said, referring to Allahr Dal.
Officials said at least two people were killed and dozens of people were injured in the blasts. JMB claimed responsibility for the bombings.
Islam said a militant leader named Motin Mehdi, a native of Gaibandha, founded Allahr Dal.
“Basically, the militant group started its journey from Gaibandha district and gradually it expanded its network in other places,” he said.
In 2011, a court in Kurigram district sentenced Mehdi to life in prison after he was found guilty of involvement in the 2005 bombings. Another court in Jhenaidah district had also recently sentenced him to death. In the court verdict, he was identified as a JMB leader, officials said.
Mehdi remains in prison after his sentencings, Islam said.
But members of Allahr Dal continue to operate despite his imprisonment, authorities said.
On Aug. 19, members of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) presented four suspected Allahr Dal members during a news conference in Dhaka. Officials said the suspects had planned to attack a prison van that was scheduled to transport Mehdi, the Allahr Dal leader.
RAB members seized mobile phones and computer flashdrives from the suspects.
On Sept. 17, police also detained eight suspected Allahr Dal members during a raid in the southwestern Meherpur district.
Sheikh Zahidul Islam, additional police superintendent in Meherpur, told BenarNews three women were among the eight suspects, including one who said she joined Allahr Dal 18 years ago.
“We came to know about the activities of Allahr Dal in Meherpur through the arrest of one of its members,” he said.
Bangladesh suffered its deadliest terrorist attack on July 1, 2016, when five pro-Islamic State militants stormed the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, taking dozens of hostages and killing 20 of them using guns and knives. In all, 29 people, including the five militants, died in the attack, police said.
Analysts: Deradicalization program needed
The government must ensure that militant groups cannot go beyond their network of supporters, analysts said.
“It’s not enough to just ban militant outfits. Deradicalization programs will have to be taken, so that they cannot expand their activities,” security analyst Shahedul Anam Khan, a retired brigadier general, told BenarNews.
He said Allahr Dal should have been banned much earlier, instead of allowing the militant group to continue its recruitment campaign.
“The government should have thought of it,” he said.
But counter-terror officials have set their sights on Allahr Dal since 2015, according to Saiful Islam, CTTC deputy commissioner.
“Police kept on watching Allahr Dal’s activities,” Saiful Islam told BenarNews. “Police through routine drives have arrested a number of their members on charges of involvement in radical activities.”