Sunday, Dec 03, 2023

The Harkat-Ul-Jihad-Al-Islami Of Bangladesh (HUJI--B)

The Harkat-Ul-Jihad-Al-Islami Of Bangladesh (HUJI--B)

The Bangladesh branch of the HUJI came into existence in 1992 after the Afghan Mujahideen captured power in Kabul in April, 1992, after overthrowing the then Afghan President Najibullah...

The Bangladesh branch of the HUJI came into existence in 1992 after the Afghan Mujahideen captured power in Kabul in April, 1992, after overthrowing the then Afghan President Najibullah. It was set up by a group of Bangladeshi nationals, who had fought against the forces of the Najibullah Government after having undergone jihadi training in Pakistan.  The formation of the HUJI (B) was announced at a press conference in April 1992  by a group of Afghan war veterans. It was projected as a successor  to a  first Bangladeshi Mujahideen group that had been formed in 1984 by self-styled Commander Abdur Rahman, for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.  He later reportedly died in the Afghan War in 1989.

Among the founding fathers of the HUJI (B) were  Shaikhul Hadith, Allama Azizul Haq, who is also associated with the  Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ), a member of the former ruling coalition headed by Begum Khalida Zia, Muhammad Habibur Rahman of Sylhet, Ataur Rahman Khan of Kishoreganj, Sultan Jaok of Chittagong, Abdul Mannan of Faridpur and Habibullah of Noakhali. All of them are members of different  Islamic organisations and madrasas. Ataur Rahman Khan was reportedly elected to the Parliament  as a candidate of Begum Khalida Zia's
Bangladesh National Party (BNP) in 1991.

All of them visited Afghanistan in 1988 before the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and met, amongst others, Osama bin Laden. An account of their travel to Afghanistan at the invitation of the HUJI of Pakistan was given by  Habibur Rahman in an interview to an Islamic journal called "Islami Biplob" (Islamic Revolution), which was published by the journal on August 20,1998. Habibur Rahman was  also the convenor of Sahaba Sainik Parishad and the founding principal of the Jameya Madania Islamia, a madrasa at Kazir Bazar, Sylhet.

He said in the interview: "An invitation from Harkat-ul Jihad- Al- Islami made it possible for me to make the fortunate trip to Afghanistan... Those of us who visited the Afghan war-fields during that trip were Shaikhul Hadith, Ataur Rahman Khan, Sultan Jaok, Abdul Mannan, Habibullah and myself. In Pakistan, leaders of the local chapter of  the HUJI greeted us and took us to the HUJI Karachi office. HUJI Pakistan chief Saifullah Akhtar and a Bangladeshi Mujahideen Abdur Rahman Shahid drove us to an Afghan Mohajir ( refugee) camp on the Pakistan-Afghan border. We stayed at the camp and visited some injured Mujahideens and an Islamic cadet college, where the cadets received us with a guard of honour. Abdur Rahman then drove us to the residence of top Mujahideen leader  Rasul Siaaf. The house was defended like a fort with anti-aircraft cannons and armed guards. While still in Pakistan and on our way to Afghanistan, we visited a special Mujahideen training camp and met about a dozen Bangladeshi young Mujahideens led by one Abdul Quddus. We watched youths from different countries taking military training on a mountainous terrain. The arms they were being trained to operate included rocket launchers. That night, I shared a meal of dry cold bread with a handsome young Arab.  When I inquired after his identity, I was told he was Osama bin Laden, a son of one of the richest Saudi families.  The next day, we entered Afghanistan and arrived at a Mujahideen cantonment on a mountain top. We visited an armoury inside a tunnel. We were informed that some Russian forces were in position nearby and that every one must prepare to fight. All of us were given Kalashnikov (AK-47) rifles. We stayed the night at the camp, while a Mujahideen team advanced towards the enemy position and engaged in a skirmish. The following day  we started  our return journey."

The HUJI (B) subsequently appointed as its leader Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid. Imtiaz Quddus was appointed its General Secretary. He is probably identical with Abdul Quddus mentioned above. It has its main operational base in the coastal area stretching from the port city of Chittagong south through Cox's Bazar to the Myanmar border. In addition to acts of terrorism, it has been involved in  piracy, smuggling and gun-running . It reportedly maintains six training camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong and six more near Cox's Bazar. There are varying reports of its total strength, going up to 15,000, but my own estimate on the basis of available intelligence is that it has a hard-core strength of about 700, consisting of  native Bangladeshis, Rohingya Muslims from the Arakan  area of Myanmar and Pattani Muslims from Southern Thailand. According to some reports, the Rohingya Muslims constitute the largest single group in the organisation.

According to Bangladesh Police sources, a  key suspect in the plot to assassinate the then Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, in July 2000, Mufti Abdul Hannan,  was trained in a HUJI camp in  Peshawar in Pakistan. A diary recovered by the Police from Hannan's brother Matiur Rehman, who was also involved in  the assassination plot, reportedly indicated he was in touch with the Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka.These sources say that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence uses the HUJI (B) for running training camps for the insurgent groups in India's North-East, for Indian Muslims and for selected members of the Bangladeshi illegal migrants to India. These training camps are reportedly located  in the Kurigram and Rangpur areas of Bangladesh, near the border of Coochbihar  in West Bengal. The presence of similar training camps for training recruits from India were also reported in the past  in Rangmari, Sundermari and  Masaldanga.

Instructors from the HUJI (B) are also attached to the training camps of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) near the Tirupura border. It was suspected that the attack on the security guards outside the US Consulate at Kolkata in January, 2002, was orchestrated  by HUJI (B), in collaboration with the JEM and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, under the name  the Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF). Aftab Ansari alias Aftab Ahmed alias Farhan Malik, the prime accused in the attack, was in touch  not only with the office-bearers of these organisations in Pakistan, but also with Omar Sheikh, who had masterminded the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. Omar Sheikh claimed during his interrogation  by the Karachi Police in 2002 that it was he who had asked  Aftab Ansari to carry out the attack.

The HUJI (B) reportedly receives financial assistance from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan through Muslim Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) of  Bangladesh such as the  Adarsa Kutir, Al Faruk Islamic Foundation and Hataddin as well as from the ISI through its station chief in the Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka. Amomg the terrorist incidents in Bangladesh in which it was suspected were:  the murder  of journalist Shamsur Rahman, on July 16,  2000, in Jessore, a plot to assassinate Sheikh Hasina on July 23, 2000,  plots to assassinate  28 prominent intellectuals of Bangladesh , including National Professor Kabir Choudhury, writer Taslima Nasreen and the Director General of the Islamic Foundation, Maulana Abdul Awal, an explosion at a Bengali New Year's Day function in Dhaka on April 14, 2001, which killed eight people, an explosion in a Roman Catholic church at Baniachang in Gopalganj on June 3, 2001, killing 10 worshippers, and an attempt to kill Dr.Humayun Azad, a Bangla Professor and famous writer, on February 27, 2004.

In February, 2005, under pressure from the European Union, Begum Khalida Zia, the then Bangladesh Prime Minister, who till then was denying the presence of any jihadi terrorist organisation in Bangladesh territory, admitted for the first time the presence of  the Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and banned them. But her Government continued to deny the existence of HUJI(B) and the ban order did not cover it.

Commenting on this in an editorial on February 27, 2005, the usually reliable  Daily Times of Lahore wrote as follows:

"The disease of ‘Islamist terrorism’ was incubated in Karachi and Khost and then passed on to Dhaka. A glance at the looking glass in Dhaka will discover Pakistani-jihadi footsteps all over the place. The Harkatul Mujahideen (Jihad) al-Islami (the one called HUJI in Bangladesh) is the outfit whose leader was a graduate of the Banuri Mosque seminary in Karachi and whose activists tried to kill our Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz recently. HUJI is the international face of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. As for the "pseudo-Islamic" nature of what is happening in Bangladesh, let us accept that that is the way of ‘Islamic revolution’ these days. This is what the Uzbek Islamist Tahir Yuldashev did in Osh before he came down to Afghanistan and then to Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. The Hizb al-Tahrir, which Pakistan banned only after Yuldashev’s discovery, worked in tandem with him in Central Asia and is now clearly working in tandem with HUJI in Bangladesh. As in Pakistan, seminaries also flourish in Bangladesh with foreign funding because of poverty and — and this few observers mention — profits to the organising clergy. Had the clergy been devoted to a higher cause they would have used the money to promote local Islam and not the hardline Wahhabi-Saudi one now associated with the Taliban. An increasing number of Bangladesh’s madrassas are now following the pattern of study of the madrassas in Pakistan and have become Deobandi in their world view. The Hindus have been targeted, aided by the widespread belief that they should be expelled from the country. The jihad in Afghanistan brought in Al Qaeda money, and the training camps in Bangladesh have since begun to turn out warriors for the Taliban and Al Qaeda."

The paper added:

"The phase Bangladesh is passing through can be taken in two parts. An aspect of it belongs to the early 1990s when the "Islamist" outfits in Pakistan did not offend the conservative Muslim League but were seen as a threat by a liberal PPP (Pakistan People's Party). These days the ruling BNP in Bangladesh is most reluctant to take action against the Islamists as they continue to attack Awami League cadres and communists; but when phase two opens up, the BNP will be equally threatened. The "purifying" dynamic of the Islamists will demand that the BNP bend to the kind of shariah the warriors favour in light of their training in Afghanistan and their "salafi" contact with Al Qaeda. A day will come soon enough when the state of Bangladesh will come under threat from the Islamic warriors it is now
empowering through denial."

As predicted by the paper, that day came on August 17,2005, when the two organisations banned in February, 2005, but whose leaders and activists were not arrested, carried out 450 simultaneous explosions all over Bangladesh and thereafter introduced suicide terrorism.  Acting in panic, Begum Khalida Zia ordered a round-up of the leaders and activists of these two organisations and their prosecution. She also banned the HUJI (B) in October, 2005, but  none of the leaders of  HUJI (B) except Mufti Abdul Mannan, who was involved in the attempt to kill Sheikh Hasina, was arrested. Its cadres, many of them trained in Pakistan, remain untouched and no action has been taken against its training infrastructure in Bangladesh territory, which continues to train jihadi terrorist recruits from India, Myanmar
and  southern Thailand.

The HUJI  of Pakistan is a  member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed in 1998 and through its branch in Bangladesh, it has been trying to arabise and wahabise the Muslims of Bangladesh, who are in their overwhelming majority descendents of converts from Hinduism, and use them  for carrying out its pan-Islamic agenda in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and southern Thailand.