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Police on alert anticipating jihadist attacks during Christmas

Al Qaeda, Christian, Christian missionary, Bangladesh, Ansar Al Islam, Bangladesh Police, CTTC

Counterterrorism

Police on alert anticipating jihadist attacks during Christmas

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies in Bangladesh are anticipating jihadist attacks by the members of Ansar Al Islam, local franchise of Al Qaeda targeting a Christian missionary in the country on allegations of its involvement in religious conversion of Muslims into Christianity. According to an intelligence report, suspected militants might have already taken position within the surrounding areas of their target.

Recently, an intelligence report signed by Mohammad Abdullahi Baki, Additional Deputy Inspector General (Secretary) of the Police Headquarters, has expressed the suspicion of terrorist attacks. The report also calls for detailed information on the threat of attacks and measures to be taken to prevent it. Copies of this report have also been sent to the Superintendent of Police (SP) of 64 districts of the country including all police units.

But, head of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Bangladesh Police, Md Asaduzzaman told a vernacular daily that there is no specific terrorist attack threats during Christmas. Instead, CTTC maintains regular surveillance on establishments which are vulnerable to militancy attacks.

On November 20, after two members of Ansar Al Islam, who were sentenced to death, were snatched-away by members of this jihadist outfit from the court premises in Old Dhaka, the issue of militant activities came into discussion again. Ansar Al Islam is the local franchise of Al-Qaeda’s Indian Subcontinent Wing, AQIS. Although there has not been any militancy attack in Bangladesh for the past several years, counterterrorism experts feel these outfits are secretly gaining strength and the November 20 incident has evidently proved their enhanced capabilities.

In the recent years although there has not been any militancy attack in Bangladesh, militants are silently getting organized. Dozens of youths have disappeared from homes as part of Hijrah or leaving homes for joining jihad. Recently seven youths from Comilla district had left homes to join Hijrah, which had drawn the attention of the media and members of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the country.

In the letter recently sent from the police headquarters entitled “Intelligence report on the planning of possible terrorist attacks on various installations in Bangladesh”, it is said that there is a possible threat of attack on a Christian missionary installation in the mountainous areas of Sylhet district and around Kishoreganj district. Information has already been gathered through covert pre-operational surveillance by supporters linked to members of the al-Qaeda affiliate Harkat-ul-Jihad.

According to an intelligence report, the missionary establishment targeted by the militants is a large six-storey white building. It is run by white men in white clothes. Missionaries help destitute, mainly Muslim children and adults, and provide food, shelter and employment from the mission if a person converts to Christianity.

A group of people linked to Al Qaeda are feared to be in the vicinity, even inside of the facility and are planning an attack at any moment. First there is a plan to attack with knives. Later, it may lead to a strong attack, said the intelligence report.

According to the letter, the safety of lives and property should be ensured by increasing security in the possible places of attack and increasing the necessary vigilance. It said, foreigners working in the missionaries are to be provided necessary security while a list of foreigners living in different districts in Bangladesh and to arrange necessary security to them.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury

An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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