For years, radical Islamic groups as well as militancy outfits have been forming alliances and conglomerates amongst themselves with the notorious agenda of spreading the flag of ‘Caliphate’ or ‘Sharia rule’ through the South Asian nations and beyond. According to counterterrorism researchers, in South Asia, Al Qaeda and its franchise Ansar Al Islam (AAI) as well as other militancy and ultra-Islamist outfits including Hizbul Mujahedin, Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Hizbut Tahrir, Hezbut Tawheed, Hefazat-e-Islam, Khatmey Nabuwat, Ahley Hadith, Tablighi Jamaat etcetera are advancing with the mission of turning the region into next battle ground. Currently, members of these groups, especially Ansar Al Islam, Hizbul Mujahedin and Hefazat-e-Islam are focusing on increasing the number of activists and members through fresh recruitments, while these groups also are putting special emphasis on enhancing the capabilities of its military wing through getting increased number of members trained from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
It is already anticipated, immediately after US President Joe Biden’s pullout from Afghanistan, the country will go under full control of Al Qaeda, which onwards will enable the international terror outfit in using Afghan land in training jihadists from South Asia and other nations while through opium cultivation and smuggling from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will make hundreds of millions of dollars every month, which this notorious group will use in buying weapons and explosives as well as spend towards spreading radical Islamic militancy throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Strategy of Al Qaeda franchise Ansar Al Islam
According to Ansar Al Islam propaganda materials, this franchise of Al Qaeda tells it supporters, in the 21st century, the war was not limited just to guns and gunpowder. It was essential to be skilled in language, knowledge, work and strategy. That is why the organization aimed at recruiting persons who were mentally and politically smart and intelligent. They would utilize time and opportunity astutely.
Now AAI has started making efforts in recruiting youth from secondary schools, college, university and madrassas with the active help from other Islamist forces and militancy outfits. According to Bangladesh Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, it has recently obtained some documents on the recruitment bids of AAI. One year’s training would be a pre-condition for full membership. Ansar Al Islam had previously never spoken about the inclusion of women, but this time their leaflets addressed both men and women.
According to these documents, it is evidently proved, Ansar Al Islam clearly is following the path of Al Qaeda.
In my opinion, this notorious jihadist outfit might be now looking for establishing suicide squad having men and women in it. Especially, AAI’s latest decision to include women in its membership indicates possible agenda of AAI in using its female jihadists as well as couple comprising male and female jihadists to hit various targets inside India and other Asian nations, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Maldives and beyond.
Although Bangladesh law enforcement sources say the chief of Ansar Al Islam in Bangladesh is a sacked army major named Syed Ziaul Haque, counterterrorism experts say, the group currently is led by an individual named ‘Imran’. According to the police, Ziaul Huq sends messages to the activists three or four times a year. His last message was sent on 29 Ramadan last year.
Ansar Al Islam emerged in 2013 with the hacking to death of blogger Rajib Haider. From then till 2016, the organization was involved in nine killings. On April 2016, members of the group entered a house in Kalabagan of the capital city and killed USAID employee and LGBT activist Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy.
In 2013, Al Qaeda had published ‘General Guidelines for Jihad’. The guidelines instructed members not to isolate themselves from society. Ansar Al Islam follows Al Qaeda’s ideology and instructions. They aim at mobilizing public opinion on issues pertaining to common grievances of the people, forming support groups from where they will select activists, and targeting madrasah and university students for recruitment. They also plan to form an alliance with the Islamic scholars within the country. They are particularly interested in persons with IT expertise.
Ansar Al Islam is working on a special type of USB (pen) drive, which would become popular within the militancy groups. It is also working on a software that can help in skipping surveillance.
Ansar Al Islam, a threat to South Asian security
Ansar Al Islam, by forming alliance with regional militancy groups as well as Tablighi Jamaat and Hefazat-e-Islam certainly is turning into a major threat to regional security. We are already aware of AAI’s connections with Indian militancy groups in West Bengal in particular as well as other states. Moreover, AAI and Hefazat-e-Islam’s connections with Pakistani spy agency ISI is well documented. It is essential for the South Asian governments and counterterrorism organizations to outlaw both Ansar Al Islam as well as Hefazat-e-Islam, while bring activities of Tablighi Jamaat under surveillance.