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US$5 million reward on fleeing Bangladeshi jihadists

US Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, US citizen, Avijit Roy, Rafida Bonya Ahmed, Ansarullah Bangla Team, Al-Qa’ida, Al Qaeda, Specially Designated Global Terrorist, US Congress, Senate

Counterterrorism

US$5 million reward on fleeing Bangladeshi jihadists

Recently US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service has announced US$5 million reward for information on the terrorist attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh that left US citizen Avijit Roy dead and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed seriously injured.

According to a press released, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken has authorized a reward of up to US$5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Avijit and the attack on Bonya.

It may be mentioned here that Avijit Roy and his wife, Rafida Bonya Ahmed both Bangladesh-born US citizens, were visiting Dhaka to attend Ekushey Boi Mela – a book fair when they were attacked by assailants with machetes.  Avijit was killed and Bonya survived with critical injuries.

This investigation remains open, and the US State Department is seeking information that will assist law enforcement agencies in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist attack.

A total of six individuals were charged, tried, and convicted in Bangladesh. Two of the convicted conspirators, Syed Ziaul Haque (aka Major Zia) and Akram Hussain were tried in absentia and remain at large.

Two related groups have claimed responsibility.  Ansarullah Bangla Team, an al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorist group based in Bangladesh, claimed responsibility for the attack.  Shortly thereafter, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attack on Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

In 2016, the Department of State designated AQIS as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224, which provides authority to sanction terrorists and those who support terrorists or terrorist acts.

The Rewards for Justice Program, administered by the Diplomatic Security Service, is an effective law enforcement tool.  Since its inception in 1984, the program has paid in excess of US$200 million to more than 100 people who provided actionable information that helped prevent terrorist attacks, bring terrorists to justice, and resolve threats to US national security.

A section of Bangladeshi media, without understanding the contents of the US State Department’s announcement of reward stated that the amount is offered for information on absconding Syed Ziaul Haque (aka Major Zia) and Akram Hussain. This was totally wrong. In fact, the US State Department is looking for “information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country of anyone involved in the murder of Avijit and the attack on Bonya” – meaning, they are willing to locate the exact culprits. Another serious side of this statement is also a matter of grave concern for Bangladesh, as the US State Department has categorically stated that Al Qaeda (al-Qa’ida) inspired terrorist group Ansarullah Bangla Team, which is based in Bangladesh claimed responsibility for the attack. It also said, Asim Umar, the now-deceased leader of al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), posted a widely circulated video claiming that AQIS followers were responsible for the attacks.

What does that mean? Counterterrorism experts in Bangladesh have failed to read the real message between the lines. Through its press release, the US State Department has in other words categorically signaled of the presence of “Al Qaeda inspired” jihadists or terrorists in Bangladesh. Such signals are not any simple issue.

While the United States seems to be serious in combating religious extremism and radical Islamic terror, in some cases it has been playing double standard, which may ultimately put Washington’s sincerity on these issues at stake. For example, the US has removed Yemeni Houthi terrorist group from its designation list and has been indirectly patronizing Palestinian mega-terror outfit Hamas and other jihadist groups. Cyber-security operatives in Washington have been failing in taking actions against hundreds of jihadist accounts on social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter. Here are information on a few of the jihadist IDs on Twitter: @Fazzanelli, @rakkhoshruh, @Based_Boi69, @BigBanglaCock, Roheemulla, @MrSan234, @malik_nawaz5, @NahianJisan1, @trashseriesOO, @Sipahisalar, @wtfizthizshitz, @TheSonderous, @WholsMahdi51214, @LunazimH, @OidWolve etcetera. Anyone spending several hours on social media can track hundreds of such jihadist IDs. Amongst these IDs on Twitter, @Based_Boi69 has been publicly proclaiming as one of the killers of Avijit Roy and has also been threatening others of lynching in the same way they have murdered Avijit Roy.

The US State Department has also failed in protecting anti-militancy activists and individuals, particularly who were being recognized by the US Congress. This resolution was passed by the US Congress in March 2007. Yes, it was about me! The resolution HR-64 said:

Whereas Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a Bangladeshi journalist who, because of his beliefs in an interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims and criticism of Islamic extremism, is on trial for sedition, an offense punishable by death;

Whereas on November 29, 2003, Mr. Choudhury was arrested at Zia International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on his way to board a flight bound for Tel Aviv; Mr. Choudhury’s passport was seized, along with considerable sums of money and several personal items; on that same day police raided Mr. Choudhury’s home and newspaper offices, seizing files, computers, and other valuables;

Whereas Mr. Choudhury was detained in Dhaka Central Jail for a passport violation, then subsequently charged with sedition; Mr. Choudhury suffered harsh interrogation techniques and received no treatment for a debilitating case of glaucoma; Mr. Choudhury’s incarceration lasted 17 months without legal recourse;

Whereas on April 30, 2005, after intervention by the United States Department of State and congressional offices, Mr. Choudhury was released on bail;

Whereas in the subsequent months, senior members of the Bangladeshi Government made continuous public promises that there was no substance to Mr. Choudhury’s pending charges and that all charges would be dropped;

Whereas on September 29, 2005, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the “Freedom to Write Award” by PEN USA;

Whereas on May 5, 2006, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the American Jewish Committee’s Moral Courage Award in absentia in Washington, D.C.; two days prior to Mr. Choudhury receiving the award, after returning Mr. Choudhury’s passport and appearing to allow him to attend, senior Bangladeshi Government officials issued threats to prevent him from leaving the country;

Whereas on September 18, 2006, a judge with alleged ties to an Islamic extremist party ruled that Mr. Choudhury will stand trial for sedition; the judge made this ruling despite the Public Prosecutor’s testimony in court days before that the government did not have evidence and would not object to the charges being dropped;

Whereas members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom visited with Mr. Choudhury on their trip to Bangladesh in February and March 2006;

Whereas on October 6, 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote a letter to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A. Boucher calling on the United States Government to strengthen the “voices of moderation” in countries like Bangladesh where the rule of law, democratic institutions, and respect for human rights are under assault by violent extremists; the Commission identified Mr. Choudhury as one of those voices that should not be silenced;

Whereas, according to the Department of State’s 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Bangladesh, “Attacks on journalists and newspapers, and government efforts to intimidate them, political party activists, and others, occurred frequently.”; and

Whereas moderate voices in the Muslim world must be supported and protected to advance the security of the United States and its allies: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that—

(1) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury;

(2) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately return all of Mr. Choudhury’s confiscated possessions; and

(3) the Government of Bangladesh should cease harassment and intimidation of Mr. Choudhury and take steps to protect Mr. Choudhury.

Bangladesh authorities may not have paid proper attention to any resolution passed by the US Congress and Senate in the past, but they need to understand, such ignorance may ultimately bring bad consequences.

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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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