Bangladesh Police See Increase in Militant Attacks

Prapti Rahman
170320_Militants_Regroup_620.jpg Officers guard the site where a militant blew himself up inside a makeshift Rapid Action Battalion camp in Dhaka, March 17, 2017.
Star Mail

Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and other security units have seen an uptick in suicide bombings and other attacks in the past two weeks, raising fears that militants are regrouping and recruiting new members, officials and analysts said.

Between March 6 and 18, suspected members of Neo-JMB faction carried out attacks on security forces while alleged members of  Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) were linked to an attempted jailbreak.

“The recent orchestrated attacks demonstrate that the militants are regrouping with renewed violent strength. They are not eliminated; they went into hibernation following the death of their members in police raids after the Holey Artisan café attack,” security analyst retired Brig. Gen. Sakhawat Hossain told BenarNews, referring to the deadliest ever terrorist in Bangladesh that took place last year.

“They will be trying their best to come up with bigger violent incidents in the future,” he said.

The recent cycle of violence began on March 6, when a suspect tossed Molotov cocktails at a prison van in an attempt to free HuJI founder Mufti Abdul Hannan, who faces execution. Police arrested the attacker at the scene.

Over the weekend, the appellate division of Bangladesh’s Supreme Court turned down Hannan’s appeal for a review of his death sentence for an assassination attempt in 2004 on the British High Commissioner that killed three people. The government is preparing for Hannan’s execution, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.

Kamal has linked the ongoing attacks to home-grown militants, dismissing claims by the Islamic State (IS) that it has a foothold in the country.

“We have evidence that the militants change their brands frequently. Sometimes they are JMB, sometimes Neo-JMB, sometime HuJI, sometimes Ansarullah Bangla Team and so forth,” he told BenarNews.


Neo-JMB – a faction of militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) – has grown stronger with more funding and bombing capabilities under new leadership following the deaths of then-leader Tamim Chowdhury and two other suspected Neo-JMB members in August 2016, a Bangladeshi counter-terrorist official told BenarNews.

“They have been adding fresh recruits with more hideouts in Dhaka, Chittagong and the countryside,” said the official who requested anonymity.

Officials have blamed Neo-JMB for the July 2016 siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s deadliest ever terrorist attack that killed 20 hostages, mostly foreigners. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Less than a week later, Neo-JMB attempted an attack on the country’s largest Eid congregation, but police killed an alleged militant. Two policemen and a civilian, however, died in that incident.

Those incidents led RAB and other security units to carry out preemptive raids, killing at least 48 suspected militants since then.

Recent attacks

On March 15, police arrested a couple linked to Neo-JMB near their apartment in Sitakunda sub-district, Chittagong, after receiving a tip from their landlord.

Based on information from the couple, police surrounded a nearby apartment where militants stockpiled grenades, explosives and bomb making materials.

On Thursday, special weapons and tactical (SWAT) officers killed four suspected members of Neo-JMB, including a woman, during a raid at the second apartment. A small boy, believed to be the child of the female militant, died during the raid and at least one militant blew himself up.

A fifth militant, identified as Tajul Islam Mahmud (alias Mama Hujur), one of seven regional HuJI leaders, was killed Thursday in a gunfight with police in Brahmanbaria district while other suspected militants escaped.

On Friday, a suspected militant blew himself up at a makeshift RAB camp in Dhaka. Around 4:30 a.m. Saturday, RAB officers shot and killed another suspected militant carrying explosives when he tried to crash his motorcycle into a security check post in Dhaka’s Khilgaon area.

Md Sakhawat Hossain, an additional deputy inspector general of police in Chittagong, told BenarNews that the suicide vests found in Sitakunda and the vest used at RAB’s compound in Dhaka were similar.

Nur Khan, the executive director of human rights group Ain-O-Salish Kendra, told BenarNews that preventing suicide bombers is difficult.

“The militants will try to carry out big suicidal attacks costing the smallest number of their members,” he said.

Previously, police came under a bomb attack by alleged Neo-JMB militants in Chandina, Comilla as they were searching the Chittagong-bound bus on March 7. With the help of the local people, the police managed to capture two militants.

A day later, police raided a house in Mirersharai sub-district and recovered 29 grenades, black overalls, machetes and black flags inscribed in Arabic.

Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.