The militant outfits both at home and abroad are fishing in troubled waters as they are trying to inspire their followers to go to Myanmar and fight the country’s military in the name of saving the Rohingya people who face brutality at the hands of the Myanmar army.
Highlighting the Rohingya crisis as an important issue, global jihadist groups and several international and native militant outfits have already exchanged such “jihadi” invitations on social media.
Bangladesh’s security specialists fear that the entire region Southeast Asia could face another security risk if the militants become active surrounding the crisis.
There is also scope for coalition among the militants, forced out Rohingyas and extremist groups near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border areas over the issue, security experts said.
Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) – after allegedly attacking Myanmar’s security personnel - that triggered the recent violent crisis for the Rohingyas, declared a ceasefire from offensive military operations for a month, September 10 onwards.
The outfit, however, claims to have no jihadi ambitions.
The general leadership of al-Qaeda issued a two-page message globally to start a fund aimed at helping the Rohingya people, where the international militant outfit’s high command also urged the other jihadi groups and Muslims to take necessary training and set out for Myanmar.
Al-Qaeda, titling the project as Burma Calling, called out to the jihadists of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Philippines to go and fight against the Myanmar military.
Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad’s chief Maulana Masood Azhar has asked his followers to get ready to take action against Myanmar where a brutal military campaign has forced nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh.
Masood Azhar made the first call to action among South Asian militant groups through an article published in the group's al-Qalam magazine under Azhar's pen name Saadi, where he warned Myanmar to prepare “for the thudding sound of the footsteps of its conquerors”.
“We have to do something, and do it urgently,” Azhar wrote, adding that the Muslims were “feeling the pain of the Muslim nation”.
He noted that the sacrifices of Rohingya Muslims were waking other Muslims up. “All of us must do whatever we can for the Myanmar Muslims. Just say your prayers, and get up to help them. You don’t need to show off what you are doing: just do it, and never stop.”
Hizb-ut Tahrir, condemning the oppression on Rohingyas and urging countrymen to raise their voice, pasted various posters on the street walls in Dhaka, Chittagong and other cities of Bangladesh.
Al-Qaeda affiliate Harkat al-Shabab, in a statement, warned Muslims “especially in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Indonesia: know that the tragedy of the Rohingya today will be your tragedy tomorrow if you let them down and be silent.”
Myanmar’s Muslims, the statement said, had been lulled by international “responses of condemnation and warning.”
It also asked the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent to attack “evil Buddhists”, and “make of their targeting a lesson for all those who would learn and all those who would dare to hurt the Muslims.”
Call to jihad over Rohingya issue not new
The recent call to jihadists by global jihadist groups over the Rohingya crisis is the not the first of its kind.
An Indian Express report claimed that Indian intelligence believed Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives had helped train Rohingya jihadists.
Indonesia arrested RSO members Abu Arif and Abu Shafiyah in 2013 for plotting to blow up Myanmar embassy in Jakarta to avenge atrocities against Rohingyas.
Jaish-e-Muhammad’s chief Azhar's call has sparked fears that Myanmar's crackdown on Rohingyas could lead to terrorist violence across the Rakhine state, reports The Indian Express.
So far, the Rohingya militants have exhibited little firepower and rudimentary military capacity.
In 2012, the Lashkar-e-Taiba held a conference to highlight the Rohingya issue. Intelligence sources said Lashkar operatives Shahid Mahmood and Nadeem Awan were sent to Bangladesh and Thailand’s Mae Sot to make contact with Rohingya refugees living along the Myanmar border.
After the recent crisis erupted, AFP reported that most of the refugees were women, children and elderly people. The Rohingyas forced out claimed to Border Guard Bangladesh that the youths stayed back to fight the oppression, a BGB man told to AFP, seeking anonymity.
How ready is Bangladesh?
Saying that the militancy threat was not only a concern for Bangladesh, but also a regional problem, Security Analyst Major General (Retd) Abdur Rashid told the Dhaka Tribune: “We have to be ready to face any kind of situation and our intelligence networks should be stronger so that no evil force can use our lands.”
“We have to boost our communication and ties with other countries so that we can get more information from them about the movement of such sinister groups,” he also suggested.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, a couple of days back at a conference at his ministry, said that Bangladeshi security agencies proved their capability against any kind of militant aggression, while the law enforcement agencies are prepared to thwart any further plans of militants.
The country’s intelligence agencies and detectives are on high alert everywhere in the country especially at border areas, he also said, adding that the Rohingya refugees have to stay in the areas that are fixed for them.
Assistant Inspector General (Media and Public Relation) Shahely Ferdous said: “All the police stations in the country are kept on alert so that militants can’t regroup, while instructions have been given to all police units to keep eyes on the Rohingya issue and related incidents.”