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Government to bring home 5,000 Bangladeshis from Libya

  • Published at 07:09 pm May 7th, 2019
Government to bring home 5,000 Bangladeshis from war-torn Libya
Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan government forces and Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya on Sunday REUTERS

The plan raises concerns among law enforcement agencies about potential militants returning

The government is planning to bring back home, around 5,000 Bangladeshis stuck in war-torn Libya.

Consular Director General (DG) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chiranjib Sarker, confirmed the matter to Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

“We will bring them back with the help of IOM - around 5,000 Bangladeshis currently being held captive in Libya - but it will take time,” he said.

However, the plan has raised concerns among law enforcement agencies who are worried about possible militants entering the country in the absence of a proper vetting process.

On Sunday, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) arrested Mutaz Abdul Mojid Kafil Uddin Bapari, a Bangladeshi who had possibly fought for the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

Bapari's arrest in Dhaka has made police anxious about militants returning to Bangladesh as IS being pushed out of Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

When contacted, CTTC chief, Monirul Islam, said they would take all necessary measures to prevent the return of foreign terrorist fighters to Bangladesh.

Monirul said they had issued warnings about Bangladeshis who had joined foreign terrorist groups and submitted a list of foreign terrorist fighters to the Immigration Police.

According to a CTTC source, the law enforcement agency's list includes the names of 40 people who went to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of IS.

"We are yet to make a list of Bangladeshi fighters who went to Libya," said the source, wishing to remain anonymous.

A senior Immigration Police official, however, said that preventing foreign terrorist fighters from returning to the country was not their job.

"Our job is to only check the legal documents of returnees," he added.

Migrants not militants

DG Chiranjib Sarker informed the Dhaka Tribune that a group of 33 Bangladeshis would be brought back from Libya on Wednesday.

“The Libyan Coast Guard captured them while they were migrating to Italy through the Mediterranean Sea,” he said, adding that several organizations were working to prevent the return of militants and terrorists from these countries.

However, he said that before bringing back any Bangladeshis from Libya, they would check all their documents and have them vetted by security agencies.

A senior official at the Bangladesh Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, said they were verifying whether all returnees were actually Bangladeshi citizens or not.

However, he said they did not have any particular mechanism or means by which they could identify terrorists trying to get back into Bangladesh disguised as undocumented migrant workers.

Fallout of the Libyan war

In a recent article published in the Middle East Eye, Mark Curtis, historian, and analyst of UK foreign policy and international development, wrote that the "true extent of the fallout from the Libya war is remarkable—it has spurred terrorism in Europe, Syria, North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa".

After civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Libya was used as a facilitation and training hub for around 3,000 fighters on their way to Syria and these fighters later joined with Islamic State-affiliated Katibat al-Battar al-Libi (KBL), "which was founded by militants from Libya," the article stated.

It is estimated that almost 80% of IS membership in Libya is non-Libyan, including from countries such as Kenya, Chad, Senegal, and Sudan. "These foreign fighters are potentially available to return to their own countries after receiving training," the Middle East Eye report added.

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