War on the Subcontinent

The multiple bombings throughout Bangladesh highlights the scope of the war, al Qaeda’s global reach and their reliance on local jihadi groups to extend their reach. Bangladesh has no troops in Iraq, is not an occupied country, nor does it have close ties to the West, yet Islamist terrorism exists all the same.

Bangladeshi security forces intensified a hunt on Thursday for militants who simultaneously set off hundreds of crude bombs across the country, killing two people and injuring about 100.

Roughly 200 homemade bombs exploded on the streets, at courts and near key government buildings in various places across the Islamic nation shortly after Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia left Dhaka on Wednesday on a five-day visit to China 

The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen leaflets were found at most of the blast sites. Besides calling for Islamic rule in Bangladesh, it also warned the United States and Britain against occupation of Muslim nations.

John Burgess reports the rash of explosions across Bangladesh were not Al-Qaeda sponsored, but instead a “plea by indigenous Islamic extremists for Al-Qaeda assistance in the future.” But Bangladeshi Islamists have a long pedigree of connections to al Qaeda and its International Islamic Front. Fazlur Rahman, the emir of the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh is a founding member of the International Islamic Front.

Dr. Sudha Ramachandran has a comprehensive primer on Islamists in Bangladesh, including information on the various alphabet-soup of Islamist jihadi organizations. He points out that Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B) was established by al Qaeda seed money and plays a critical role in training and providing manpower to the global jihad.

Bangladesh’s terror outfits are by no means insignificant. H.U.J.I.-B., for instance, is said to have thousands of fighters. Its original mission might have been to set up Islamic rule in Bangladesh but, over the years, its ambitions and the geographical spread of its role have grown substantially.

During the 1990s, it was involved in training Muslim Rohingya insurgents from Myanmar and it sent its cadres to fight in Afghanistan and against Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Post-9/11, its responsibilities in the global jihad have grown. It appears to have been made responsible for training jihadi fighters from southern Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Brunei and it is sending its own fighters to Indonesia, the Philippines and Chechnya.

The scattering of al Qaeda after the loss of Afghanistan created an opportunity to Bangladeshi Islamists to further up their profile within al Qaeda.

The coming to power of a fundamentalist-friendly coalition in Bangladesh coincided with the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the loss of training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Their bases were disrupted by counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan, so al Qaeda fighters were forced to look for new nests. Bangladesh emerged as an attractive sanctuary. In April 2002, Bertil Lintner wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review that after the fall of Kandahar in Afghanistan in late 2001, hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters arrived by ship from Karachi to the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong. A few months later, Time magazine’s Alex Perry provided details on southern Bangladesh having become “a haven for hundreds of jihadis.” The Bangladeshi media too has reported extensively about the activities of the extremists, especially of the violence engineered by Bangla Bhai, leader of the J.M.J.B.

The Time article also includes the claim that Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number two in command, entered Bangladesh at this time.

The rise of Islamist extremism is compounded by the problems of the government courting Islamists for political gain (much like the problem in Pakistan). Bangladesh’s government contains two Islamists ministers, and local police are reluctant to act against extremists for fear of government reprisals. Terrorist leaders such as Bangla Bhai remain on the loose despite their known affiliations with the jihadis. And, also like Pakistan, the madrassa remain an integral part of the support mechanism for Bangladeshi terrorists.

The war is indeed global, and spans all continents. The specific focus in many quarters on al Qaeda’s support structure from the golden days of Afghanistan is not only myopic, it is dangerous. The recent bombings in London and Sharm el-Sheikh demonstrate this.

al Qaeda has intentionally created its organizational structure of loosely tied regional or national Islamist groups to allow plausible deniability, and create confusion within the Western coalition. Nations less willing to act against groups not considered to be part of al Qaeda are given the excuse not to. Meanwhile, the jihadis grow their infrastructure while the international community looks away.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Mixed Humor says:

    “Besides calling for Islamic rule in Bangladesh, it also warned the United States and Britain against occupation of Muslim nations.”
    Is any further evidence needed to confirm the point that it’s not the war in Iraq spurning jihadism globally, and has alot more to do with……the jihadists themselves!

  • callmeMICKEY says:

    Anyone that questions the reason why military action is necessary to restore order to the world need not look any further than this as an example. The radical jihadists don’t care where or who they target. They hate freedom and the the two pillars of it. The US and the UK.

  • leaddog2 says:

    We have many Muslins snakes to exterminate world wide, some say is is 10 to 15 % of all Muslims.

  • steve says:

    You are right about the gains “plausible deniability” offers these shadowy groups. This shell game (Which shell is the real terrorist under?) needs to be called out, and the lazy media taken to the wood shed for being so darn gullible.
    Maybe the reason for the face-covering we see at terrorist demonstrations is that the skinny guy with the Kalishnikov standing on the bullet-riddled Volkswagen at Monday’s Hezbollah rally is the same guy waving the same gun shouting Allah Ahkbar at an Islamic Jihad rally on Tuesday, and he just doesn’t want to be recognized.

  • GK says:

    You are right about the 10-15%.
    Also, what percentage of the US population consists of fifth-column leftists that are actively cheering on the terrorists? About 10-15% (the Ward Churchill/Michael Moore fanbase).
    Coincidence? Or is it possible that 10-15% of the human population consists of evolutionary waste matter i.e. genetical refuse that nature seeks to eliminate from the evolutionary stream. Among animals, the waste matter is in the form of creatures that predators eat. Among humans, since predation is no longer existent, nature has pre-programmed these 10-15% to take actions that increase their own departure from the gene pool, whether suicide bombings, genital mutilation, partial-birth abortion, gay marriage, etc.
    Think about *why* leftists in the US are so eager to increase the chances that they themselves will get killed by terrorism (opposing the Patriot Act, wanting Abu Ghraib photos to be publicized, opposing profiling at airports, etc.)
    Then think about *why* Islamic suicide bombers have no hesitiation to throw their own lives away in a method that, frankly, is not even that efficient.

  • Grim says:

    Here’s my observation, following a day and a half of reading up on this:
    The salient fact about these bombings is this: they set off hundreds of bombs, and didn’t kill but two people. One of them was a kid who picked up one of the devices and was actually holding it when it detonated.
    They seem to have wanted to kill lots of people — they planted bombs in major traffic regions, near government buildings and transportation centers, and set them to go off around the busiest part of the day. It looks like they wanted a major casualty event.
    Except for the press coverage that this story is getting, which is occasioned solely by the number of blasts they managed to set off, this attack was a total failure. Even the “synchronized” element wasn’t that great — from what I’ve read, it looks like these bombs went off more or less randomly for about half an hour. I figure, nobody wants to synchronize 200 watches, so they probably just eyballed it.
    These particular agents are completely incompetent. Two Marines armed only with heavy sticks would have caused a whole lot more damage. The evidence here strongly suggests that they’re amateurs at making bombs, and completely untrained in the business of deploying bombs effectively.
    Now, it’s possible that they’ll get some training and start doing better — if al Qaeda and its allied groups can manage to deploy some of their bombmasters from Iraq, Indonesia and elsewhere. If they can afford to lose them, that is: the Bangladeshi police and intelligence services are not going to play according to the kid-gloves rules that the CIA uses, and they won’t have any trouble finding local agents with the right language skills and contacts for infiltrating these groups.
    I think this (like the London bombings) is the wave of the future: bombs are not that dangerous in the hands of amateurs. We’ve got a lot of problems, but we should also realize our enemy’s limitations as well as our own. They have a (more or less) global reach, but most of their “tip of the spear” are rank amateurs who aren’t likely to survive long enough to become veterans. Most of ours are hardened veterans, and getting harder by the day.
    These guys in Bangladesh can make a low-powered explosive. They can make a whole lot of them — or at least, they could this one time, and may or may not be able to do so again. But even if they can, they don’t know how to deploy them effectively.
    They’re getting a lot of attention, but they didn’t show me much here. I suspect that they’re going to end up regretting the event more than the Bangladeshi government does.
    The real trick to watch in Bangladesh isn’t these jihadis — it’s the ethnic conflicts in the regions near Chittagong. If the government uses this as an excuse to crack down on them, you could get a genuine ethnic conflict that would have a lot more disruptive and lethal power than these Qaeda allies.
    At least, that’s my read on it. FWIW.

  • Enigma says:

    I guess Bangladesh will now have to seriously consider withdrawing its troops from Iraq and ending its support of Israel.
    Good points, Grim. It’s interesting how the terrorists spend a lot of time and resources developing one-time-use skills. Not a lot of institutional memory, is there?

  • Don Cox says:

    “this attack was a total failure. ”
    That depends on whether the aim was to kill people or to get publicity. I’m sure they got big headlines in all the Bangladesh newspapers.

  • Enigma says:

    I think the aim was to get publicity by killing people—large numbers of people. What they got instead was publicity in their failure to kill large numbers of people. Jihadists can also suffer from negative publicity.


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