Counter-terrorism officials have arrested a Saudi-born Bangladeshi man on charges of violating anti-terror laws after he allegedly tried to join a local militant group upon his return from Syria, where he was believed to have fought for the Islamic State, police said Tuesday.
Motaj Abdul Majid Kafiluddin Bepari, 33, was arrested in Dhaka on Sunday while meeting with members of the banned IS-linked group Neo-JMB, police said.
“Motaj was arrested under the anti-terrorism act. He is now in four-day remand,” Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner for media and public relations of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.
The arrest took place about two months after Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews that Bangladesh would bar any citizens who joined IS overseas from coming home.
“If any suspect in some way manages to arrive, we will arrest them and try them in accordance with the law. We will not allow any terrorists to come to Bangladesh,” he said.
Dhaka authorities have not determined exactly how many Bangladeshis left the country to join the militants who rampaged across Syria and Iraq and seized territory in 2014. But Khan said suspected IS fighters or supporters would be taken into custody if they landed at any airport in Bangladesh.
According to the United Nations, more than 40,000 foreign fighters from 110 countries might have travelled to join terror groups in Syria and Iraq. That figure includes 40 Bangladeshis, according to a July 2018 report from the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) in London.
Motaj, who grew up in Saudi Arabia, entered Bangladesh in February. During his arrest, police seized his Bangladeshi passport, a Saudi driver’s license and literature related to radicalization, a police report said.
Authorities took him to the chief metropolitan magistrate’s court on Monday and the judge ruled that the police could keep him under custody for interrogation for four days.
Investigators said Motaj’s deceased father was Bangladeshi and his mother came from Pakistan.
According to the police report, seen by BenarNews, Motaj had established contact with the Neo-JMB “and was planning to establish a caliphate in Bangladesh after uprooting the government.”
Security analyst Mohamad Ali Sikder, a retired army major general, told BenarNews on Tuesday that law-enforcement officials should seriously consider the security risks posed by nationals returning from Syria or Iraq, as they “might have connections with other militant groups.”
“After returning home, those militants may try to organize groups and recruit people,” he said, “or they may make a coalition with local militant groups, implement their plan and operations.”
IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who claimed to be the successor to the Islamic caliphs who ruled the region in past centuries, declared the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in Mosul in 2014 and persuaded thousands of Muslims around the world to travel to the region and fight.
IS once controlled 88,000 sq-km (34,000 sq-miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq. A US-backed alliance of Syrian fighters announced in March that IS has lost the last pocket of its territory in Syria, bringing a formal end to the "caliphate" it proclaimed five years ago.