A female bomber who blew herself up in Dhaka over the weekend belonged to a militant group that uses women as “sex slaves” and whose male members force their wives into it, a top police counter-terror official said Tuesday.
Men in the militant faction known as Neo-JMB can have multiple wives and use women to ensure their own safety, said Monirul Islam, chief of the counter-terrorism and transnational crimes unit at Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
“They use the women as sex slaves. Another militant marries a female member if her husband dies,” Islam told reporters.
“Interrogating the female members, we have come to know that the women do not enter militancy by their own choice. They are basically forced by their husbands to get involved,” he said.
Islam addressed a news conference in Dhaka three days after a woman and a teenager reportedly blew themselves up separately as police raided a three-story house in Ashkona, a neighborhood in the Bangladeshi capital.
Two women and two children left the house and were taken into custody at the time.
But a third child, who was with the female bomber as she exited the building and headed toward police, was injured in the blast when the woman set off the explosives, a police official who was at the scene told BenarNews.
The bomber was the girl’s mother. The girl remains hospitalized in Dhaka.
“After 12 hours of persuasion, one woman came out of the den, holding a [girl] aged 6 to 7 year old. We asked the woman to raise both her arms up and hand over the [girl] to us,” Additional Deputy Commissioner Sanwar Hossain said.
“She was not listening to us. Suddenly, she pushed the [girl] toward us and exploded her suicide vest. Probably she had a plan to destroy herself and police members,” Hossain told BenarNews.
‘Totally against Islam’
A faction of Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Neo-JMB reportedly aligns itself with the extremist group Islamic State (IS) and has been blamed for a terrorist attack that left 29 dead, including 20 hostages, at an upscale café in Dhaka July.
IS claimed responsibility for the overnight siege, but Bangladeshi officials have insisted that Islamic State has no presence in the country, saying the attack was carried out by a home-grown group, Neo-JMB.
The female bomber who committed suicide on Saturday, identified as Shakira, was the wife of Neo-JMB member Sumon, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal confirmed.
She married Sumon after her first husband, Iqbal, had died of cancer, the minister said. The injured girl, identified as Sabina, was the daughter of Iqbal and Shakira.
Retired Brig. Gen. Shahedul Anam Khan, an expert on militancy and security issues, told BenarNews that Neo-JMB follows an IS policy on women.
“The IS uses the women, especially the Christians, the Shiites, the Yazidis and other faiths, as sex slaves. What IS does is totally against Islam and the Islamic guidelines on women’s rights,” he said.
“Suicidal female militants are really a big threat for us,” Khan said.
Women can even use their clothing to their advantage.
“Traditionally, a large number of women in Bangladesh don burkas, so this is difficult to find the militant women from the general ones,” Abdul Halim, a student at the criminology department at Dhaka University, told BenarNews. He said the government could not ban burkas.
“Instead, law enforcers must enhance intelligence gathering,” Halim said.
Arrests of women
In 2016, not including Saturday’s arrests, Bangladeshi security forces have arrested at least 17 suspected female members of JMB, who, according to police, were being groomed for suicide bombing missions.
“Our female members rent houses stating that their husbands work in other places and they will come at times. Thus our militants stay with their wives at secure houses and continue the operation,” a JMB member who identified himself as “Khadem” told BenarNews in September.
JMB carefully manages marriages within its ranks to help it survive, he said, noting that high-ranking members are allowed up to four wives so that they have safe places to stay. Moreover, men who are with JMB appoint “standby husbands” for their wives in case they are widowed. Khadem said.
Women who do not accept their new husbands can leave the group as long as they do not divulge any of JMB’s secrets, he added.
“Leaking any information … would be dealt with severely. But in most of the cases, our women members remain with the company and marry the standby candidates,” he said, using an insider codename for JMB.
Shahriar Sharif in Dhaka contributed to this report.