Bangladeshi authorities Tuesday announced the arrests of four women suspected of links to the banned extremist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), bringing to eight the number of alleged female militants taken into custody in Bangladesh during the past three weeks.
The four who were picked up by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Tuesday included an intern physician and three students from a private university, officials said.
“Early Tuesday, we arrested Aklima Rahman, Mou and Meghna for their militant links. They are students in the pharmacy department at the Manarat International University. We also nabbed Oishi, an intern doctor at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, for links with the militants,” Lutful Kabir, an additional deputy inspector general of RAB, told a news conference in Dhaka.
He did not release full names for three of the suspects.
According to a statement issued by the battalion, officials built a case against the four suspected female militants after arresting a JMB commander, Mahmudul Hasan, who allegedly recruited one of these women into the group about 18 months ago.
Following last month’s arrest of the first batch of four women, police said that JMB was now recruiting women to its cause, and that JMB male members were radicalizing their wives.
“Aklima used to collect funds and hand them over to Hasan for the purpose of expanding the party (JMB) to establish a caliphate and prepare to fight the government forces,” Kabir told reporters.
He said RAB had recovered extremist materials including books, photos and videos while arresting the four suspects in Dhaka and neighboring Gazipur district.
“In addition to studying at the university, Aklima used to interact with different people in the guise of working as an Arabic tutor. Many people used to maintain contact with her,” Kabir added.
He said RAB recovered information relating to militant activities from Aklima’s mobile phone.
Rich women, poor women
Intern doctor Oishi is the daughter of physicians serving at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, authorities said.
“We have seen students from the affluent families and private universities involved in militancy. But for the first time, we see that female students from a private university have been involved in militancy. This is very serious,” Ishfaq Elahi Chowdhury, a retired air commodore and registrar of East West University in Dhaka, told BenarNews.
The government has also blamed JMB for carrying out acts of terrorism in the country, including an attack on a café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter last month in which 20 hostages were killed.
Three of the five suspects who carried out an overnight siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery, and who were killed when security forces stormed the building on the morning of July 2, were young men who belonged to affluent families and studied at private universities and high schools.
On July 24, police arrested the first group of female jihadists in northwestern Sirajganj district. Compared with the other suspects, those four women were from poor backgrounds and, in some cases, were married to JMB operatives, officials said.
The JMB is recruiting women because they can slip through some security screenings, according to Chowdhury. Previously, police had said that role of women in militant activities was limited to delivering weapons to target sites, as well as gathering intelligence for terror plots and communicating with the attackers.
“The arrests of the female JMB jihadists exposed the deep penetration of militant outfits such as the JMB. We have to involve women to counter the militants’ move to radicalize our girls,” Chowdhury said.