Terror Financing Tricks in Bangladesh: Self-Donations, Expatriate Remittances, and Robbery

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 22 Issue: 5

Bangladesh's anti-terrorist unit, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). (Source: The Wire)

Executive Summary:

  • The issue of terror financing has become a front and center challenge in Bangladesh.
  • Militants use “self-donations,” remittances through the hundi system, robbery, and front businesses to finance their operations.
  • This is particularly important due to the revelation of connections between Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, a newly formed Muslim militant organization, and the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), a Christian armed group.

With the revelation of connections between Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, a newly formed Muslim militant organization, and the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), a Christian armed group, terror financing has become an increasingly front and center problem in Bangladesh (see Terrorism Monitor, June 26, 2023). Members of the former Muslim militant organization have set up a training camp in the remote hills of Bandarban with the help of KNF. Surprisingly, KNF is offering the jihadist group shelter and training in exchange for money (Prothom Alo, October 12, 2022). This cooperation appears to fly in the face of radically contradictory racial, ethnic, and religious differences between the groups. Both, however, operate under the tight scrutiny which proliferated after Bangladesh imposed a “zero tolerance policy” toward militancy in 2016. This came as a result of the Islamic State (IS)-claimed attack on Holey Artisan Café in Dhaka, which killed 22 (Daily Sun [Bangladesh], December 16, 2021). It is critical to understand how militant and jihadist funding methods particular to Bangladesh are underpinning these emerging groups.

Terror Financing Tricks in Bangladesh

“Self-donations” are one of the most significant sources of funds for Bangladeshi militant groups, especially Muslim groups. For example, the Holey Artisan Café attack was mainly sponsored by Bangladeshi militants, with nearly eight million taka ($100,000) donated by three men: a doctor at the state-run Dhaka Shishu Hospital, a retired army major, and a former banker (Hindustan Times, October 18, 2016). The doctor had abandoned his property and left for Syria with his wife, two daughters, and a son-in-law to join IS. The army major donated his salary and savings to the Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and some of this money was used for the café attack (The Daily Star [Bangladesh], October 18, 2016). The banker, meanwhile, donated money he earned from selling his apartment in Dhaka’s Uttara District (The Daily Star [Bangladesh], September 17, 2016). The army major and the banker were later killed in police raids in September 2016 (The Daily Star [Bangladesh], September 16, 2016).

Expatriates’ remittances are another critical source of terrorist funding in Bangladesh. Tamim Chowdhury, a Canadian–Bangladeshi expatriate, for example, was considered the architect of the café attack. He led Neo-JMB from the front and was killed in a police-led operation in 2016 (The Independent [Bangladesh], August 28, 2016). $7.8 billion entered Bangladesh illegally through the hundi system (an informal, customary South Asian money transfer system, which is outlawed in Bangladesh) in 2023 (PressXpress, December 25, 2023). Some portion of this is used for terrorist activities. Some expatriates have also rented houses in Bangladesh for terrorists, fundraised for them, and maintained direct relations with their rank-and-file militants (Brill, February 21, 2022).

Robbery is another way militant organizations have funded their activities. Some members of the al-Qaeda-affiliated group Ansar al-Islam, for example, robbed a state-run bank to raise funds for their operations, killing at least eight people in 2015 (Dhaka Tribune, January 21, 2016). The original JMB usually divided loot into three categories for use: personal expenses, group funds, and money for smuggling into jails (The Daily Star [Bangladesh], August 17, 2018). Some Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI) members were also engaged in robbery to raise money for the organization. In their eyes, HUJI “legalized” robbery, claiming that if looted money is spent on the “welfare of Islam,” the robber’s sins will be forgiven (The Daily Star [Bangladesh], March 5, 2019).

Small businesses are also a medium for funding terrorism. According to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), a mobile accessories shop named “Trust Telecom” has operated with funding from Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in Dhaka. Profits gained from the business were then used to fund jihadist training. The arrested Wasiqur Rahman, inspired by the group’s ideology, also ran a perfume (ator) shop with the organization’s money. His store was located in the capital’s Moghbazar Area, and the dividends from the shop were likewise spent on training (dhakatimes24, December 5, 2022). Another supporter, Anisur Rahman Mahmud, sold his house, cattle, and fish farms, donating 1.8 million takas ($16,000) of his profits to the militants (Samakal, December 2022).


Terrorist organizations in Bangladesh have employed various funding methods. These include self-donations, expatriates’ remittances, robbery, and small business donations. The interconnectedness between groups like KNF and Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya underscores the urgency of curtailing terror financing to prevent further unrest in the country’s border regions or another attack like the one Holey Artisan Café.