Bangladesh: jihadi arrested, guns blazing

With the word’s attention elsewhere, a violent confrontation between security forces and jihadis in Bangladesh. From India Monitor, March 7:

Dhaka: Wanted terrorist and Islamist leader Siddiqul Islam better known as Banglabhai, who founded the jihadi organisation Jagrata Muslim Janata and is blamed for deadly bombings, was captured by security forces on Monday after a dramatic encounter at his hideout in Mymensingh district.

Mashuk Hasan, an official of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion, an elite anti-crime force that led the operation, said Banglabhai tried to blow up himself to avoid arrest. He has been flown to Dhaka after emergency surgery.

Siddiqul Islam is a senior leader of Jamat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has been blamed for a wave of bombings across Bangladesh in recent months that have killed scores of people. The group seeks to introduce harsh Islamic rule in Bangladesh which at present is governed by secular laws.

About 50 security agents surrounded Banglabhai’s hideout, a tin-roof house, and urged him to surrender, Mr Hasan told newspersons at the scene of the encounter in Muktagachha, about 110 km north of Dhaka.

Banglabhai and other militants at the hideout responded with gunfire, then detonated a bomb inside the house in a suicide attempt that ripped the roof off and injured at least seven people, including the wanted terrorist and some security agents. Banglabhai, who had lost a lot of blood, was taken to a hospital in Mymensingh where he was operated on.

With burns and splinter injuries to his whole body, Banglabhai was later flown to Dhaka for treatment at a hospital for Bangladesh Rifles. One of Banglabhai’s aides suffered critical injuries in Monday’s raid and was hospitalised in Mymensingh. A security agent who was shot in the head and neck was being treated at an Army hospital in Dhaka.

Mr Hasan could not confirm local media reports that Banglabhai’s wife and another couple, who were arrested earlier Monday, at a rented house in Mymensingh, led security agents to his hideout in nearby Muktagachha. Security agents recovered a number of weapons, including pistols, and bomb-making material from the charred ruins of Banglabhai’s hideout.

“I am hopeful that all the terrorist networks will be destroyed very soon and the remaining terrorists will be captured,” Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said in a statement after Islam’s arrest. “There is a democratic environment in the country to preach any ideology in a peaceful manner, but there’s no room for any kind of terrorism,” she said.

An American envoy in Dhaka praised security forces following Banglabhai’s arrest.

“This is a very positive development. We, along with many other Bangladeshis, have been calling for the capture of the militant leaders,” US Charge d’Affaires Judith Chammas told the domestic United News of Bangladesh news agency.

Banglabhai’s arrest came five days after Shaikh Abdur Rahman, the head of Jamat-ul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, surrendered in Sylhet. Banglabhai gained notoriety in 2004 when he founded the Islamic vigilante group, Jagrata Muslim Janata, or Vigilant Muslim Citizens, in northern Bangladesh.

The group operated in remote villages, fighting Communist party cadre opposed to Islamism. It also invoked strict Islamic codes, including forcing women to wear veils and men to grow beards. His group was blamed for killing at least 22 people, including Opposition politicians, in 2004, before joining Rahman’s organisation in 2005.

See our last post on Bangladesh.