Counter-Terrorism: Bangladesh And The Money Train


March 22, 2012: In Bangladesh, Islamic terror organizations such as Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat- ul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), though banned for years, have survived several changes of government. Some training camps continue to impart both ideological and arms training. It's all because of money.

Mere banning of the radical groups has not worked. These groups have long been operating across the country under various banners with the mission to stage an Islamic revolution. The JMB, HUJI and the rest of Islamic terrorist networks in Bangladesh were spawned by the al Qaeda and Taliban Islamic radicals. They were trained by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and LeT (a major government sponsored Islamic terror group in Pakistan).

Survival is made possible by some twenty local and foreign Islamic charities, including al Qaeda’s International Islamic Front (IIF), which has been financing radical Islamic groups JMB and HUJI. Much of the money arrives from Pakistan via hawala (underground banking) channels. Other sources include the Saudi based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Rabeta-al-alam-al-Islami, Kuwait based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, International Federation of Islamic Organizations, Islamic World Committee, Qatar based Charitable Society, and UK based Muslim Aid. In a single transaction in 2008, for instance, JMB received $42 million, again through ‘hawala’.

JMB activists learned operational tactics of hitting multiple targets simultaneously from the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, from whom they also acquired techniques for manufacturing explosive devices and arms. The JMB follows al Qaeda’s ideology and works to expand and strengthen al Qaeda’s base in Bangladesh. Militant organizations also regularly receive funds from expatriate Bangladeshis in the U.S., Europe, and Middle East countries. A pro-Pakistan political party, JEI, works as a conduit of foreign funds. Funds are received regularly from Pakistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya based NGOs to the JEI accounts in the Islamic Bank of Bangladesh and then handed over to other pro-al Qaeda outfits in the country. This enables the party to indulge in money laundering and inciting the militants to take part in violent activities.

Internationally banned Islamic charities linked to terror funding are still functioning in Bangladesh. These NGOs (like the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), Al Harmain Islamic Foundation (AHIF), and Benevolence Society based in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Pakistan) were directly linked with financing activities of the Islamic radical groups. Two RIHS officials, one from Sudan and the other from Yemen, were deported in 2006 for having channelized from Bangladesh over $700,000 to local and foreign terrorist organizations. RIHS was forced to close its operations in Bangladesh thereafter. Earlier, bank accounts of RIHS in Pakistan were sealed for its al Qaeda links. Another Islamic NGO, Al Harmain Islamic Foundation, had to wind up its operations in Bangladesh under US pressure as it was suspected to have funded the 9/11 attack.

Activities of the Islamic radicals will continue unabated until the sources of funds and patronage are identified and choked forever. So far, that is not happening, largely because some of the funds are spent on bribing local officials. – Rajeev Sharma



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