Asian Police Meet Agrees to Boost Cross-Border Cooperation

Prapti Rahman
2017.03.14
Dhaka
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170314-BD-conference-620.jpg Police escort a convicted militant outside a court in Rangpur, Bangladesh, where he was sentenced to death for the 2015 murder of a Japanese citizen, Feb. 28, 2017.
AFP

Law enforcement officials from 15 countries agreed Tuesday to share counterterrorism information directly as they wrapped up what organizers said was the first-ever South Asian police conference on curbing violent extremism and transnational crimes.

The move to bypass cumbersome diplomatic channels in favor of “one-to-one communication” was one of 17 recommendations for enhanced cross-border cooperation contained in a 20-point Dhaka Declaration issued at the end of the meeting in Bangladesh’s capital.

“From now on, the police agencies of the countries will directly contact each other for arrest and extradition of militants, and exchange of information. The measures will lead to easy suppression of the militants,” A.K.M. Shahidul Haque, the Inspector General of Bangladesh Police, told reporters.

He said the three-day conference also agreed to enhance cooperation among the forensic laboratories and training institutes of participating countries, and to set up an information technology network to suppress terrorism and transnational crimes.

“Most of these serious crimes require instant, effective and professional cooperation among police agencies of different neighboring countries,” the Dhaka Declaration read.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi police were pursuing leads in the hacking deaths Monday of a 72-year-old Sufi religious leader, Farhad Hossain Chowdhury, and a 22-year-old domestic servant, Rupali Begum, at his home in northwestern Dinajpur district.

Police had yet to identify the motive behind the killing, but it appeared to fit the pattern of deadly attacks on religious minorities, foreigners and secular intellectuals that has gripped Bangladesh since 2013. On March 2, a court sentenced five Islamist extremists to death for the October 2015 murder of a Japanese farmer in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh was also the scene of a terrorist attack that left 29 dead in an upscale Dhaka café in July 2016.

Facebook attends

Chiefs of police of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka and senior police delegates from Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Indonesia, India, Malaysia, the Maldives, Nepal, South Korea and Vietnam attended the conference , which was organized by Bangladesh police and the International Police Organization, or Interpol.

Representatives from Facebook, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Aseanapol, the Criminal Investigation Training Assistance Program and other international agencies were also present.

Bangladesh police are concerned about the spread of violent ideology on Facebook, which is the top social networking site in the South Asian country and has been used to convey death threats against writers and others.

“Through a study on 700 militants, it was found that 82 percent of them motivated themselves through browsing the internet. Bangladesh will seek help from Facebook to solve this problem,” Assistant Inspector General of Police Mohammad Moniruzzaman told BenarNews last week.

Bangladesh police asked Facebook to demand additional identification, including national identity numbers, from Bangladesh nationals who sign up to the social media platform, but the U.S. company declined the request, the Dhaka Tribune reported.

Authorities “requested Facebook to inform the Bangladesh police if they find any content encouraging or supporting oppression of women and religious extremism,” Haque told reporters Tuesday.

“Bangladesh wanted to sign a contract with Facebook. But there is no provision in Facebook policy to sign any contract with any country,” he said.

Debate

The conference also fueled a debate on the presence of the Islamic State in Bangladesh, which authorities have long denied despite claims by the Middle Eastern group that it carried out the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery café in July 2016.

In a talk at the police conference, Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, said Bangladesh’s leaders “did not tell the truth” when it blamed the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) group for the attack.

“Certainly the group called IS emerged in Bangladesh from JMB but they do not call themselves JMB anymore,” he said.

“They call themselves IS and they are influenced by the terrorist group in Iraq and in Syria and to call JMB a local group and a homegrown group is also wrong.”

The ideology behind this and other attacks is foreign to Bangladesh and needs to be countered with special rehabilitation efforts, he said.

“In fact, the best antidote for terrorism and extremism is the Bengali culture, which is a very rich culture.”

Senior police officials refuted the claims.

“We have arrested the attackers of every single militant attack. Some of them were killed in the police operation. None of the arrested militants and the relatives of the slain militants told us that they were IS members,” the IGP told reporters.

“But the local militants may have links with the foreign militants in the virtual world,” he said.

In his concluding remarks, State Minister for Foreign Affairs ShahriarAlam said the government had no information on activities of the international militant groups in Bangladesh.

“They are homegrown,” said Alam, adding Bangladesh wanted to cooperate with other countries to free the country from the influence of the global terrorist outfits.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam (center) addresses the closing ceremony of the Chiefs of Police Conference in Dhaka, March 14, 2017. [Courtesy Bangladesh Police]

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