Thursday, June 18, 2009

JMB Regrouping in Western Borderlands

JMB continues to rear its head in Rajshahi division. According to the Daily Star, police arrested four cadres in the last few days and learned of the JMB’s regrouping in four sub-districts of Chapainawabganj – far to the west on the border with India (see graphic). According to the police, the four fled following the crack down after the August 17, 2005 country-wide bombings.

The detainees had been busy: they’ve attempted to recruit women and “youths” and they’ve also turned to making their own weapons and ammunition. Perhaps most importantly, the detainees revealed that Shahadat and Selim, based in Gomostapur subdistrict, are attempting to revive the JMB. The four detainees were apprehended in: Shibganj and Bholahat sub-districts. Aside from these two areas, police named Gomostapur and C’nawabganj Town sub-districts as part of the regrouping campaign.

The article is a positive sign for a couple of reasons – firstly, it’s the local police who have been making the arrests of late, not RAB. This may indicate that the local police are getting more cooperation from the locals, the local police are getting more professional, and/or the JMB is simply unable to bribe the local police or is no longer a welcome guest.

Secondly, the issue of homemade weapons and ammunition may indicate that JMB is unable to find suppliers of modern weapons or, more likely, the organization is so disorganized financially that they are unable to procure arms. On the other hand, somebody must have trained the detainees, one doesn't just figure out how to make a gun and bullets from insecticide sprayers.

With this victory, one is left with the impression that Bangladesh has “figured out” the JMB question. In other words the government is able to find, arrest, and extract information from the militants with relative ease, keeping the group off balance, and with minimal bloodletting. One also hopes that the government is also aware of emerging threats to the Constitution and to the region.

India and the U.S. are natural partners as their interests will coincide with the Bangladeshi government. India has the rare opportunity to cooperate with a friendly Awami League government in an area of mutual concern – extremist violence in the borderlands. While the Bangladeshi government will have lingering concerns over Indian dominance, a responsible India, conscious of the views of its neighbors should be able to allay these apprehensions. The U.S. could also provide much needed training, equipment, and confidence to the Bangladeshi police forces thereby enhancing governance in the areas outside of Dhaka.

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