'Militants seek to target Bangladesh security agencies but lack capacity'

Militants in Bangladesh have the police, the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and other law enforcement agencies as their main targets and are trying to instigate attacks on them, a top police officer said

Jul 02, 2020

Militants in Bangladesh have the police, the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) and other law enforcement agencies as their main targets and are trying to instigate attacks on them, a top police officer said.

"Militant groups are trying to motivate people online, encouraging attacks on police or RAB and law enforcement - anyone they find," Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Shafiqul Islam told IANS in an exclusive interview.

However, he noted that anti-militancy awareness has increased in the last four years due to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's directives and consistent steps all over Bangladesh, which has helped to protect the nation from the militant attacks.

A social movement has been formed at the call of Sheikh Hasina and has spread all over the country, the Commissioner said, adding that wherever there is a suspicion of militant activity, the general public immediately informed the police.

"From outside Bangladesh, the militant groups are motivating people for militant attacks in the name of 'Islam' by interpreting the Quran and Hadith.

"Their message to the followers is 'No worries, if you don't get a partner, you can attack yourself with a hammer, or if there is a sword, attack with a sword. If you have a knife, go and attack with a knife....'

"However, we follow those who are initiating militancy in Bangladesh by following these websites. If they behaved suspiciously, they were arrested and legal action was taken against them."

The top police officer, however, said that it was not certain that militants seeking to motivate attacks from outside Bangladesh in campaigns on different websites were Bangladeshis or foreigners.

Earlier in the day, the Dhaka police chief said that militants have no capability to carry out big attacks as the law enforcement agencies have destroyed their bases, one after the other, after the attack on Holey Artisan cafe.

He was speaking after placing a floral wreath at the bakery and cafe in remembrance of the victims who were killed in the militant attack five years ago.

Twenty-two people, including 17 foreign nationals, were killed in the attack at the cafe on the evening of July 1, 2016. Among the victims, two were police officials.

Five militants were also killed when army commandos conducted operation the following morning.

In the interview, Islam also said that the militants' followers have their own passwords for the websites on which exhortations for terror attacks are made.

However, he stressed that said the country's security system was adequate, and even the common people have become quite aware.

"The police are not working alone. Parents do not turn their children towards militancy as awareness has been created among the people.

"We have distributed leaflets with awareness messages - 'Your child is a militant - what are the ways to understand it'

"Such campaigns have made them aware. Many parents have called us and said that our child seems to be moving towards militancy, you watch them a little," he said, adding that the police have helped such parents by keeping an eye on their children.

"An anti-militancy drive has been carried out in mosques and madrassas too."

He said that the initiative of Sheikh Hasina has created awareness in all spheres of the state.

"Schools, colleges, madrasas, religious educational institutions, religious teachers, university students, teachers have all taken to the streets against militancy. The people of the villages have taken to the streets.

"Due to the awareness programme, the militants who carry out suicide attacks or die in any way.... their parents or guardians do not come to pick up the bodies. That much hate has grown against the militants... this is the success of our Prime Minister's awareness initiative."

Asked what protection is being taken for the police or others due to this threat, the

Dhaka police chief said that the police are on duty on the road and it is not possible to give security to everyone.

"Instead, the attacking militants should not be organised - the police and law enforcement are safe only if they can be suppressed.

"If the trial and punishment of the militants involved in the attacks that have taken place so far were effective, it would be an example for all militants.

"If they saw that those who had carried out militant attacks before them had been severely punished... seeing this would spread fear among them and they would move away from militancy," he said, terming it "unfortunate" that the criminals are getting bail from the courts.

"But no one can be blamed alone for this," he added.

Noting that it usually takes 15-20 years for a single murder case to be tried., Islam said that the Holey Artisan attack case was completed in three years and was a great example to deter militants.

"The capability of militants has come down to minimum level. They even have no expert to make improvised bombs.

"Many of the militants have now been languishing in jails or killed in various anti-militant operations. So they have no capability to undertake a big incident," the Commissioner said. (IANS)  

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