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Why does Washington want to open another jihadist launchpad in South Asia?

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.

While Bangladesh is heading towards the next general election, which is scheduled to be held by January 9, 2024, Joe Biden, the tinpot dictator in Washington and the members of his administration are making frantic bids in seizing this opportunity by empowering radical Islamic and jihadist forces in the country with the agenda of turning the country into another neo-Taliban state or jihadist launchpad.

According to media reports, US President Joe Biden’s scandal-plagued son Hunter Biden has been appointed as a lobbyist by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), an ultra-Islamist party, which maintains deeper links with Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (HuJI-B), Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Lebanese militancy outfit Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas as well as Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), an organization of madrassa teachers and students that has been trying to turn Bangladesh into a Caliphate state. Because of the influence of Hunter Biden, Washington announced a ridiculous visa policy for Bangladesh on May 24, 2023 under the pretense of promoting democracy and human rights.

Media reports said, after months of frantic bids, Bangladesh Nationalist Party has finally succeeded in reaching into a lobbyist arrangement with Hunter Biden through a lobbyist firm named Blue Star Strategies. For several years, Hunter Biden has connections with a consulting-cum-lobbyist firm named Blue Star Strategies, which had earlier registered its work for the Ukrainian company Burisma under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Through the same company Hunter Biden also crafted a plan to lobby the State Department on behalf of the Chinese private equity firm BHR Partners.

Although the amount of “lobbyist fees” offered by BNP to Hunter Biden remains unknown, according to a number of sources, the son of US President Joe Biden has been assigned to accomplish three goals – to obstruct Awami League from holding the next general election without participation of BNP; to exert pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in holding the next general election under direct supervision of Washington; and to stop import of goods from Bangladesh if the next general election is held without BNP.

Back in January 2013, BNP’s chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia wrote an article in The Washington Times called upon the US administration to impose travel ban and sanctions on her political rivals as well as civil-military officers and members of law enforcement and security agencies.

In the same article, Begum Khaleda Zia defended scandalous Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus stating: “…members of the U.S. congressional caucus on Bangladesh condemned the government — in particular Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — for removing Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus from his post as managing director of Grameen Bank, Bangladesh’s award-winning microfinance institution that has pulled millions out of poverty”.

Khaleda Zia also condemned Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite force in Bangladesh which has been very effectively combating terrorism and militancy while she had also strongly defended war criminals and criticized the trial of those nefarious individuals who had actively collaborated with Pakistani occupation forces in murder of Bengali freedom fighters and cruelty on Hindu males and females.

Now after a decade, BNP, under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia’s son Tarique Rahman, a convicted terrorist is spending millions of dollars towards lobbyist activities and propaganda in implementing her blueprint that she had chalked-out back in 2013 with active collaboration of war criminals, anti-Bangladesh elements and leaders of militancy outfits.

Meanwhile, it was also learnt from sources that at the request of Muhammad Yunus, Hillary Clinton also has been trying to influence US President Joe Biden through a number of key officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Another media source claimed, Hunter Biden wants America’s intelligence agencies to interfere in the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh as it did during elections in Nigeria as well as in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections in the United States.

BNP, a mother-vessel of Al Qaeda and militancy outfits

As the Biden administration is making desperate bids in helping ultra-Islamist BNP and its conglomerate of jihadists forces in returning to power, radical Islamic forces, including Al Qaeda, are intensifying activities within the country with a dangerous agenda of spreading seeds of terrorism within Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and other countries in the region. Recent arrest of a regional operative of Al Qaeda by law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh rang the bell of possible rise of militancy outfits taking advantage of current political uncertainty in the country. Media reports said, Al Qaeda terrorist Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha, widely described as one of ‘India’s most wanted’, was arrested in Bangladesh along with his wife on May 30, 2023.

Media reports further said, Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha is the top leader of the Dawah wing of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and has nearly a dozen terrorism-related cases registered against him in India. A key recruiter for Al-Qaeda in the subcontinent, the members of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent arrested in India have named Abu Talha as their recruiter. He is known as ‘Maulana Sabet’ within Al Qaeda.

A Bangladeshi citizen, Talha entered India on a tourist visa and admitted himself to Deoband Seminary. He later forged an Indian identity card (Aadhaar Card) in the name of Noor Hossain.

Reports in Bangladeshi media cited CTTC officials as saying that Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha’s wife Faria Afrin is also a member of the female wing of the terror group.

The crackdown on Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) started in India after the arrest of a Bangladesh-based terrorist by Assam Police in March 2022. According to sources cited by Indian news agency ANI, the arrest was a result of several months of intelligence operations run by Assam Police going back to at least September 2021. Subsequently, there have been more than 50 arrests all across India. The latest of these was by Gujarat ATS last month where 5 AQIS operatives from Bangladesh were arrested.

In October 2022, the Anti-Terrorism Squad in India arrested 8 AQIS members from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, some of them Bangladeshi nationals. They reportedly identified Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha as their top leader to Indian law enforcement agencies.

In May 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested 4 more AQIS members from Gujarat, all Bangladeshi citizens, who too identified Ikramul Haque, alias Abu Talha, as their recruiter.

Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha regularly trained and recruited members for AQIS in India and Bangladesh.

Indian broadcast network Republic TV in a report said, Abu Talha was in Bhopal for a considerable period of time and was the mastermind behind activating the ABT & AQIS modules in Madhya Pradesh and also parts of UP and Southern India, according to a top intelligence officer.

As per confidential sources at the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Abu Talha told interrogators that they have succeeded in establishing 11 sleeper cells inside India in Cooch Behar, Bhopal, Assam, Delhi and Tamil Nadu. Each sleeper cell comprises between five-eight members. Most of the members are trained for making IED and some of them are ready to sacrifice lives through suicide attacks.

He further said, they have underground connections with several leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam and were plotting terrorist attacks inside Bangladesh. He added, AQIS is already having connections with Myanmar-based Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

According to the confession he made to Dhaka Metropolitan Police, while studying in Deoband, he came in contact with one Aman who introduced him to AQIS. After joining the AQIS, he worked for the outfit’s wing in Cooch Behar, Bhopal, Assam and Delhi and recruited new people. He also gave online classes to the new recruits in online and offline mode. His laptop and mobiles have been seized and sent for forensic examination. An operation has been initiated to nab his accomplices in Bangladesh. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police has decoded his encrypted apps through which he used to communicate with the AQIS members. It has come to light that they used the dark web to communicate.

Abu Talha was also in touch with AQIS top leader Wasim Omar and many other leaders of Al Qaeda as well. He was also in contact with “Ansarullah Bangla Team” which also is known as Ansar Al Islam (AAI) leader Maulana Usman Gani and Sheikh Tamim Al Adnani of Bangladesh.

It was earlier reported in Blitz that Al Qaeda has been using Tablighi Jamaat as a vessel for radicalization and recruitment of jihadists.

The May 30 arrest of Al Qaeda handler Ikramul Haque alias Abu Talha is possibly just the tip of the iceberg. It is extremely alarming to note that Al Qaeda already has established connections with Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), a pro-Caliphate organization of madrassa teachers and students. It may be mentioned here that, HeI is an ideological ally of ultra-Islamist BNP, a party currently headed by a convicted terrorist and earlier been termed as an undesignated terrorist organization by a court in the United States.

The BNP’s involvement in terrorist activities extends further, as evidenced by the orchestrated grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina and leaders of the Awami League in 2004. These attacks resulted in the loss of 24 lives and numerous injuries. Tarique Rahman, along with other BNP members and former top intelligence officials, was found guilty and received various punishments for their involvement in the attacks. In fact, Rahman himself was sentenced to life in prison. The verdicts and convictions leave no room for doubt about the BNP’s terrorist agenda and its leaders’ direct involvement in heinous acts.

The United States Department of Justice has published court documents indicating that the BNP is considered an undesignated terrorist organization under US law. The organization has been associated with terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Ansar Al Islam, Hizbut Tahrir, and others. Shockingly, despite these damning connections, Western politicians have been accepting lobbying assignments from the BNP and supporting its return to power, thereby jeopardizing the stability and secular nature of Bangladesh.

According to the Department of Justice, Tier III terrorist organizations are also called “undesignated terrorist organizations” because they qualify as terrorist organizations based on their activities alone without undergoing a formal designation process like Tier I and Tier II organizations.

From its inception, the BNP, led by military dictator General Ziaur Rahman, has pursued an anti-India, anti-Hindu, and pro-Islamist agenda, seeking to transform Bangladesh into a Taliban-like state. During its rule from 2001 to 2006, BNP supporters openly chanted extremist slogans and expressed hostility toward the United States. The party has also sponsored and patronized Islamist militant outfits like Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), Harkat-ul-Jihad (HuJI), and Khatmey Nabuwat Movement, which have been responsible for targeting religious minorities and carrying out terrorist acts.

The BNP’s deeper ties with Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), an organization advocating for the transformation of Bangladesh into a caliphate, further highlight its extremist ideology. Under BNP’s patronage, HeI has made a 13-point demand that includes suppressing freedom of expression, promoting discrimination against religious minorities, and imposing strict Islamic education in schools.

These demands bear a striking resemblance to those of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS, raising serious concerns about the BNP’s radical connections and intentions. With ultra-Islamist BNP’s track-record of its deeper ties with Islamists and jihadists, it is indeed a matter of grave concern that the Biden administration is trying to turn Bangladesh into a newer militancy launchpad by installing BNP and its Islamist-jihadist partners in power.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research scholar, and counterterrorism specialist. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers.
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