BANGLADESHI JIHAD MOVEMENT SENDS THREATS OF A NEW BOMBING CAMPAIGN BY REGISTERED MAIL
The Media Department of the Jamiat-ul-Mojahedin Bangladesh (JMB) has sent a package of threats and propaganda materials to Dhaka newspapers and Bangladeshi politicians by fax and registered mail. Together with threats of a bombing campaign during the December 29 parliamentary elections (the first since the military enforced emergency rule in 2007), the JMB sent CDs containing video footage of JMB leaders, including footage of their arrests and court appearances following the nearly simultaneous explosion of roughly 400 bombs nationwide on August 17, 2005. JMB leaders also urge jihad against the Bangladeshi secular judicial system, condemn the media and describe democracy as “a system of evil.” Bangladesh’s judicial system is a frequent target of the JMB, which regards it as a colonial holdover in need of being replaced by Islamic law. The CDs featured a statement by the movement’s late leader, Shaykh Abdur Rahman, who was executed for his role in the murder of two judges, and a Bengali translation of a statement by Osama bin Laden (Prothom Alo [Dhaka], December 3; New Nation [Dhaka], December 5). The movement is expected to seek revenge for the execution of Shaykh Abdur Rahman and five other top JMB leaders in March 2007. During emergency rule the JMB is believed to have regrouped and actually expanded its membership.
The JMB has the capability of following up on its threats. Recent seizures of JMB arms caches have revealed the group has developed the ability to manufacture sophisticated explosive devices made entirely from locally available materials (Indo-Asian News Service, November 18; Daily Star [Dhaka], November 18). The JMB’s explosives expert, “Boma” Mizan, was recently sentenced to 20 years in prison (bdnews24.com, November 25; Daily Star, November 26).
Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite counterterrorist unit, is currently engaged in operations against the JMB in northern Bangladesh designed to capture the group’s current Amir, Saidur Rahman (New Nation, December 5). Human rights organizations have accused RAB of torture, the death of innocent civilians and arbitrary violence. RAB is drawn from members of the nation’s army, air force, navy and police.
PAKISTAN’S “ANTI-TERRORIST” TALIBAN VOW TO FIGHT INDIA IF NECESSARY
Recent statements from Pakistani Taliban leaders suggest an Indian attack on Pakistan in response to alleged Pakistani responsibility for the Mumbai terrorist assault could do what the Pakistani military and politicians have been unable to do so far – bring the Pashtun militants of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) onside with the Pakistani government in a common cause.
Taliban spokesman Saifullah Akhtar announced the Taliban was ready to “annihilate” the 8,500 Indian troops it claims are operating in Afghanistan. Akhtar pledged the Taliban would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Pakistani army if India “committed aggression” against Pakistan; “We’ll put all the differences aside at this juncture and unite… We’ll stand by the army against external powers… The Taliban are like lions before whom all the powerful have to bow down.” The Taliban spokesman added that Indians rather than the Taliban were responsible for the Mumbai attacks. According to Akhtar, the Taliban condemn the killing of innocent civilians and are “opposed to terrorism across the world” (Nawa-i-Waqt [Rawalpindi], December 3).
Though India is not part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Pakistan has recently complained about an un-mandated Indian military presence in Afghanistan (ANI, November 25). In 2006, India announced it would send 3,000 members of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police to Afghanistan to guard Indians working on a new road between Kandahar and the Iranian port of Chabahar (Daily Times [Karachi], February 8, 2006). Great Britain has asked India in the past to commit troops to the ISAF mission (The Tribune [Chandigarh], May 2, 2006).
Maulvi Omar, another Taliban spokesman, was also quoted as saying the Taliban would defend the Line of Control (the unofficial military border between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir) in the same way they defend the Durand Line (the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan). Since the Taliban basically ignore the Durand Line, the meaning of Omar’s statement is somewhat elusive. Maulvi Omar added, “in the event of an Indian attack, we’ll make it clear to the Pakistani people whether we are defenders of this country or militants” (Nawa-i-Waqt [Rawalpindi], December 3).
The Taliban’s newfound nationalism and opposition to terrorist attacks will come as a revelation to many. Pakistan’s regular forces are unlikely to accept Taliban assistance in any but the most extreme circumstances, though the option may be preferable to leaving the NWFP in Taliban hands in order to move Pakistani military assets currently deployed there up to the border with India. A major military withdrawal from the NWFP and tribal agencies would effectively leave Taliban and al-Qaeda elements free to operate in the area just as Pakistani forces have taken the initiative in a large regional offensive. It would also disturb the United States, which is encouraging Pakistan to intensify its campaign against the militants. The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, was in Pakistan earlier this month to urge Pakistan to take “more concerted action against militant extremists elsewhere in the country,” according to a U.S. embassy statement (Reuters, December 3).