Police have finally proposed imposing a ban on radical Islamist outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team, believed to be involved in the killing of secular activists since 2013.
“Although we are yet to learn about its organisational structure, police have requested the government to ban Ansarullah’s activities as a pro-active and preventive measure,” SM Jahangir Alam, acting deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said yesterday.
If banned, Ansarullah activists will not be allowed to hold meetings, processions or preach its ideologies – either secretly or publicly. According to the police, such activities would be termed anti-state and law enforcers would take legal action under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
Detectives suspect that Ansarullah is now working as the Bangladesh representative of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed last year following Al-Qaeda’s call to extend its activities in India, Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is also linked to other militant and around 60 organisations. Police want a ban on the militant Ansarullah groups as their ultimate goal is the same – establishing an Islamic state in Bangladesh.
Ansarullah’s name first appeared in the media after the killing of war crimes trial campaigner and blogger Ahmed Rajeeb Haider, and the attack on another blogger Ashif Mohiuddin in 2013.
Currently, five radical Islamist organisations are banned for their militant activities, and around 60 organisations, including local and international NGOs, are under surveillance for their suspected link to militant groups.
The present government on October 22, 2009 banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. The same year, seven other organisations – Hizb-ut-Tawhid, Islami Samaj, Ulema Anjuman al Baiyinaat, Islamic Democratic Party, Tawhid Trust, Tamir ud-Deen and Alla’r Dal – were blacklisted.
In 2013, the government had thought of banning all seven blacklisted organisations and three others – Ansarullah Bangla Team, Shahadat-e-Nobuwat and Al Markajul al Islami.
The previous BNP-Jamaat government outlawed Shahadat-e-al Hikma on February 9, 2003, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) on February 23, 2005, and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (Huji) on October 17, 2005.
Ansarullah chief Jasim Uddin Rahmani has been in jail since August 2013. He and seven of his followers are now facing trial for Rajeeb's murder. He preached that atheists who demeaned Islam and the Prophet should be killed.
Having links with the banned Islamist groups Hizb ut-Tahrir, JMB and Huji, Ansarullah wants to establish Islamic Bangladesh through an armed jihad, following the path of international terrorist groups Taliban and al-Qaeda, detectives say. It also supports Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam as they preach Islam, Rahmani had mentioned in his sermons.
“We have been following the activities of Ansarullah for many days, and have arrested and quizzed several members of the outfit. Analysing the collected information, we suspect that this outfit may have a connection with AQIS and is working as its representative in Bangladesh,” said Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of Detective Branch of police.
The recent videos posted by the AQIS claiming responsibility for the killing of bloggers hints that Al-Qaeda has links with Ansarullah., he said.
“Apart from the Rajeeb murder, we have found the outfit's involvement in the killings of Buet student Arif Raihan Dwip, Daffodil University student Ashraful Alam, Rajshahi University teacher Prof AKM Shafiul Islam and three bloggers – Avijit Roy, Oyasiqur Rahman Babu and Ananta Das Bijoy,” said Monirul, also the chief of DB police, to reporters at his office in the capital.
Members of the outfit also attempted to kill a teacher of Monipur School in the capital a couple of months back.
When asked about the difference between other militant outfits and Ansarullah, Monirul said it targets anyone – not only bloggers – who opposes its views, adding that the outfit has around 100 active members. “The number of its supporters can be large. They work in small groups and conduct silent killings.”
The DB chief said: “Although all the militant outfits have only one target – to topple the present government and establish an Islamic state – they work differently.
“Huji and JMB have targeted to kill important persons of the state to take over power and establish their ideologies. But Hizb ut-Tahrir members’ target is to take jobs at various government offices and law enforcement agencies, and gradually take control of the state.”
Ansarullah members think Bangali cultural festivals like Pohela Boishakh is like worshipping of the Hindus, Monirul said.
He said law enforcers were monitoring the activities of Ansarullah members and trying to collect the list of targets from social media and other sources. “After analysing their positions, we will try to arrange security for them [the targeted persons].”
The DB chief thinks the Home Ministry would support the proposal to ban the militant outfit too. “When other militant groups are trying to regroup, Ansarullah is moving forward quickly,” he added.
“Such militant outfits can be tackled more effectively once our proposal to form a specialised unit – Counter Terrorism Bureau – is approved by the Home Ministry,” he added.
In February, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her resolve to bring all militants and terrorists to book and announced that 50,000 people would be appointed in the police force.