March 6, 2006Foreign AffairsSecurity

The rise and capture of Bangla Bhai

Ladies and Gentlemen, they got him

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Almost exactly two years since Bangla Bhai gained national and international notoriety, his reign of terror in the Bangladeshi countryside came to a surprising halt. Within a span of four days, the Bangladeshi authorities captured both Abdur Rahman, the spiritual’ leader of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) and Siddiqul Islam (aka Bangla Bhai), the operational leader of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), its terrorist unit. For most of those two years, the government of Begum Khaleda Zia ignored their doings, insisting that Bangla Bhai was just a myth and his actions blown out of proportion by the media. They now admit their mistake.

What caused the Khaleda Zia government to have a change of heart? The charitable view, of course, is that it finally realised that the JMB posed a serious threat to its own national security and the government’s credibility internationally. But it is not unreasonable to factor in two other considerations. Firstly, Bangladesh is heading for elections soon, and the opposition Awami League of Sheikh Hasina Wajed accusation that the government failed to effectively tackle the menace of terrorism is likely to have resonated among the voters. Bangla Bhai’s capture gives the ruling Bangladesh National Party an effective counter to such accusations. Secondly, as Indian intelligence sources reportedly suspect (via Winds of Change), President George W Bush’s visit to the region may have something to do with the timing of the Khaleda Zia’s newfound enthusiasm for tackling terrorism. Bangladesh, they believe, is (in a way) taking a page out of Gen Musharraf’s book.

Whatever the reason, whether the capture of Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam will lead to a halt in the number of terrorist attacks will depend on how well the authorities clean up behind them. It is also important to ensure to ensure that the success in capturing the terrorist leaders is matched by a speedy trial that ensures that they are properly punished under the law. Bangladesh cannot afford to relax just yet.

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