Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday announced the surrender of the first two suspects under a new program that aims to counter extremism by offering militants cash incentives for renouncing radicalism.
The two suspected militants, including a man who allegedly recruited one of the five youths who carried out a terrorist attack at a Dhaka café in July, turned themselves in to the authorities who gave each of them a check for 500,000 taka (U.S. $6,370), Bangladesh’s home minister said.
The alleged recruiter, identified as Abdul Hakim, 22, surrendered to officials with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) in northern Bogra district, along with Mahmudul Hasan Bijoy, a fellow suspected member of Neo JMB, a faction of militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
“The Rapid Action Battalion [RAB] earlier announced that persons quitting militancy would get financial rewards. Hakim and Bijoy are the first two people to get a financial reward for quitting militancy. This is good news for us that the militants have come understand that they were in the wrong track,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
Since February 2015, a wave of violent extremism has gripped Bangladesh, particularly a series of killings targeting secular bloggers, intellectuals and religious minorities, among others. On July 1, the country was shaken by its worst-ever terrorist attack, when five men killed 20 hostages during an overnight siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter.
However, according to Hakim’s mother, RAB had taken her son in custody as far back as July 15.
“We have handed him over to the police. The police have told us that he recruited militants,” his mother, Sufia Begum, told BenarNews days ahead of Wednesday’s official announcement that Hakim had surrendered.
Last month, M. Asaduzzaman, Bogra’s superintendent of police, confirmed to BenarNews that Hakim was in the custody of law enforcers.
But Begum denied that her son worked as a recruiter for militants, saying he recruited youths from Bogra for jobs abroad as migrant workers.
‘We made a mistake’
On Wednesday, the home minister went to Bogra to preside over the handover of the checks to the two suspects, which was nationally televised, according to reports.
“We made a mistake. We don’t want anyone else to come to this path,” Hakim told reporters in Bogra, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We were lured to the path of violence in the name of Jihad. We have come to understand that Islam does not approve violence and militancy. We want to come to the normal life,” local media quoted Hakim as saying.
The two face the possibility of being charged and prosecuted for past terrorism-related offenses if police bring formal charges against them, Kamal told Benar.
“We have assured them that they would not be implicated in new cases, if they do not get involved in further militant activities. They can lead a normal life,” Kamal said, adding that Hakim had recruited youths to Neo JMB under the pretext of helping them find employment overseas.
‘Many youths have gone missing’
Bangladeshi officials blame Neo JMB, which ascribes to the ideology of the Middle East-based extremist group Islamic State, of being behind the café attack three months ago.
Five of the men who allegedly carried out the attack were killed when Bangladeshi security forces stormed the restaurant on July 2 to break the terrorist siege. One of the five, Khairul Islam Payel, was recruited into Neo JMB by Hakim, according to police sources and a relative of Payel in Bogra – the home district for both men.
“The government should punish him (Hakim) for pushing people into militancy. Hakim recruited at least 24 people from the region into militancy,” Payel’s sister, Josna, told BenarNews in a phone interview.
“You roam around the villages, many youths have gone missing after Hakim took them out of the village,” she said in an earlier interview. “When we inquired about Payel, Abdul Hakim used to tell us that he [Payel] had been doing a good job in Dhaka. But suddenly, on July 2, we came to know that police had killed him in Dhaka.”