Women are being recruited to facilitate or carry out militant attacks in Bangladesh, police said Monday, following the arrests of four female suspects two days earlier.
“The JMB members, now, have radicalized their wives. They have been aiding their husbands’ militant activities,” Md Abu Yousuf, an additional superintendent of police in Sirajganj district told BenarNews, referring to the banned group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.
“On Saturday, we arrested four women, all spouses of fugitive JMB members, from Sirajganj. This is a new trend,” he added.
The suspects, identified as Nadira Tabassum, 30, Habiba Aktar, 18, Rumana Aktar, 21, and Runa Begum, 19, were now in jail, he said.
“We have recovered six Molotov cocktails, different types of explosive and jihadi books from their possession. According to their statements to us, they were planning some attacks,” Yousuf said.
Another local police official, Waheduzzaman, told reporters that the four were planning to carry out attacks in Uttarpara in Sirajganj district, located some 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Dhaka.
A new phenomenon
The arrests were unusual, especially the arrest of four female suspects at once, police and security experts said.
“The use of women in militant attacks is not often seen in Bangladesh. This is a new phenomenon here. During 2004 to 2006 when the JMB activities were highest, we did not see women have roles in attacks,” Sakhawat Hossain, a security analyst, told BenarNews.
He said women clear security screenings more easily because they are not considered to pose any threat.
“So, the JMB may have adopted the strategy to get weapons to a target site. Even the women can easily go to the spot to gather information about the attack and communicate with the attackers,” Hossain said.
In some cases, militants marry siblings, allowing them to maintain a close group, he added.
“We have also seen that one of Avijit Roy’s killers, Sharif, married the sister of another militant leader. After the marriage, the women get radicalized and help their spouses in militant activities,” Hossain said, suggesting that the law enforcers should rethink their security approach to thwart this tactic.
Roy, a Bangladeshi-American engineer, science writer and blogger, was hacked to death by suspected extremists in Dhaka in February 2015.
Abdur Rahman, a resident of Sirajganj, said that local people were shocked to learn the four women had been arrested on suspicion of militant activities.
“This is a matter of great pain that the four women had three children and the children are in jail with them,” he told BenarNews.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Monday said police had identified the masterminds of the attacks on a café in the Gulshan 2 neighborhood of Dhaka on July 1 and at Eid prayers in Kishoreganj district on July 7. The attacks left 29 and four dead, respectively.
“All attacks are inter-related. …We have come to know everything about all the murders; we have identified who killed them, how and why,” Khan said, without offering more information.
Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque on Monday said law enforcers had also identified the sources of the weapons used in the two attacks. He did not give more details, saying such a disclosure could negatively impact the investigation.
The Middle East-based extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the café attack, but Bangladeshi authorities say that JMB was behind that attack as well as the attack a week later on the country’s largest Eid prayer gathering.