Islamic State of Bangladesh: An emerging Reality

Islamic State of Bangladesh reportedly came into being in March 2016

Singaporean officials released a photo gallery of eight suspected Muslim radicals from Bangladesh, May 3, 2016. Courtesy of Singaporean Ministry of Home Affairs

April 3,2016: Singaporean authorities said Tuesday they had arrested “eight radicalized Bangladeshi nationals” who were part of a group plotting terror attacks back home and calling itself the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB).

The eight Bangladeshis who worked in Singapore’s construction and marine industries were arrested in April and were being held under the island-state’s Internal Security Act, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced in a news release.

ISB was set up in March 2016 by one of the eight suspects, identified as 31-year-old Rahman Mizanur, and the group was plotting attacks in Bangladesh including targeting government and military officials for assassination, the MHA said.

“The ISB members had intended to join the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as foreign fighters,” the Singaporean ministry said, using another name for Islamic State (IS).

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“However, as they felt that it would be difficult for them to make their way to Syria, they focused their plans instead on returning to Bangladesh to overthrow the democratically elected government through the use of force, establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh and bring it under ISIS’ self-declared caliphate.”

The arrests of the eight suspects came more than three months after Singapore announced it had arrested 27 Bangladeshis late last year on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda and IS, and deported 26 of them.

Officials in Bangladesh have consistently denied that IS has a presence in their country, where secular writers, religious minorities, foreigners, intellectuals and gay rights activists have been killed since last year in machete-attacks by suspected Islamic radicals. Such attacks have escalated sharply in recent weeks.

Plans for recruitment, growth

According to Singaporean officials, at least two more members of ISB were in Bangladesh, and investigators also seized a document from Mizanur, titled “We Need to Fight for Jihad,” along with documents on weapons and bomb making as well as propaganda materials from al-Qaeda and IS.

“The ISB members planned to recruit other Bangladeshi nationals working in Singapore to grow the group. The group had also raised money to purchase firearms to carry out their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh,” MHA officials said, noting that Singaporean authorities had since seized the cash.

In March, Singapore announced that it was beefing up security and counter-terrorism measures to protect the city-state from a threat posed by IS’s rising influence in Southeast Asia.

“ISB poses a security concern to Singapore because of its support for ISIS and its readiness to resort to the use of violence overseas,” the MHA said.

The ministry noted that another five Bangladeshi workers who were investigated under the Internal Security Act for possible links to Islamic State Bangladesh were sent home.

“Investigations showed that they were not involved in ISB but nevertheless possessed and/or proliferated jihadi-related materials, or supported the use of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause,” the ministry said.

In Dhaka on Tuesday, Bangladesh’s police chief acknowledged that five Bangladeshis had been expelled from Singapore, but he did not say when they were sent home.

“They are in the custody of the detective branch, and we will question them extensively about their links with the militant groups. We have cooperation with Singapore on counter terrorism issues,” Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Haque told BenarNews. (BenarNews)