Singapore: 27 Bangladeshis Linked to Terror Organizations

Kamran Reza Chowdhury

2016-01-20
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160120-BD-singapore-deport-620 Singapore arrested and deported these Bangladeshi men on charges they are linked to terrorist groups including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Courtesy Singapore MHA

Dhaka police authorities report that 14 of 26 Bangladeshis deported from Singapore late last year on charges of terrorism and maintaining links with groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are in custody.

On Wednesday, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a statement confirming the arrests of 27 and deportation of 26 Bangladeshi migrant workers, terming them radicalized. The remaining Bangladeshi national is serving a jail sentence for attempting to leave Singapore illegally after learning about the arrests and will be returned to Bangladesh after completing his sentence.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sardar told BenarNews that Singapore deported the Bangladeshi workers between November and December 2015.

“Fourteen of them have been tied to suspicious activities; they have been in jail. We have been conducting extensive questioning. If found guilty, the workers would face serious consequences,” Sardar said.

He said the 12 others had been released, but their movements are being tracked.

Weekly meetings

All 27 were arrested between Nov. 16 and Dec. 1, 2015, but Singapore announced the action on Wednesday. Singapore authorities claim officers recovered an Islamic State training video.

“Twenty-six of them were members of a closed religious study group that subscribed to extremist beliefs and teachings of radical ideologues like Anwar al-Awlaki. They supported the armed jihad ideology of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” MHA said in a statement.

“The remaining Bangladeshi national was not a member of the group, but was found to be in the process of becoming radicalized and was supportive of extremist preachers. He also possessed jihadi-related material.”

The group members shared extremist material discreetly among themselves and held weekly meetings and gatherings where they discussed armed jihad and conflicts that involved Muslims, according to the statement.

“They also carefully targeted the recruitment of other Bangladeshi nationals to grow their membership,” MHA said. “Members were encouraged to return to Bangladesh and wage armed jihad against the Bangladeshi government. They had also sent monetary donations to entities believed to be linked to extremist groups in Bangladesh.

“Investigations disclosed that while several members of the group had considered carrying out armed violence overseas, they were not planning any terrorist attacks in Singapore.”

Some group members admitted they believe they should participate and wage armed jihad on behalf of their religion. Several of them contemplated travelling to and participating in armed jihad in the Middle East, according to the statement.

Thousands go to Singapore

The Bangladesh Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, about 600,000 Bangladeshi workers have gone to Singapore since 1980, but many have returned home.

Most Bangladeshis work in the construction and shipping industries or work as cleaners.

Migrant workers’ rights activists say the entire Bangladeshi community should not be blamed for the extremist views of a handful of workers in thousands.

“Maybe a handful of the Bangladeshi workers [are] involved in extremism and radicalism; they should face punishment. But the Bangladeshi workers are very law abiding and industrious. Most of them are poor and go to Singapore, sending huge amounts of money home. Extremism is not their agenda,” Saiful Haque, the chief of Warbe Development Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting Bangladeshi migrants’ rights, told BenarNews.

“Another important issue is: the Bangladesh authorities should find out the root cause of radicalization and address that,” he said.

A Bangladeshi worker serving in a construction company in Singapore’s West Coast area told BenarNews that Bangladeshi workers fear massive job losses. He asked to remain anonymous as he could lose his job for talking to media.

He said many Bangladeshis owe thousands of dollars to recruiting agencies who get them jobs in Singapore.

“Why should we get involved in terrorism and extremism? The manpower supplier of other countries have been carrying out propaganda that the Bangladeshis are militants. If we lose the job on suspicion or prejudice, it will be a great injustice on us,” he said.

“The government should punish the wrongdoers, but wholesale allegations are unjust,” he said.

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