Monday, June 22, 2009

RAB arrests JMB IT Chief, Explosives Expert

The recent wave of arrests continues as RAB forces detained 4 more JMB cadres, as reported by the Daily Star and the New Nation.

RAB picked up the suspected "IT chief" from Dhaka's Pallabi area. As the RAB Director of Operations stated, the arrest will "help us to understand that many highly educated people and brilliant students are involved with the banned outfit." The detainee graduated from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and was a research associate at the university's Water Resource Engineering Department.

Giving some credibility to earlier reports, the detainee noted that he would he would send bomb-making information through Bashar, the son of current JMB chief Saidur Rahman. In addition, he maintained a website(s) for JMB and had been to India for "training" (it wasn't specified what sort of training, militant or academic). Allegedly, he got involved with JMB through a former Dhaka University student, who now teaches in Gazipur.

Another raid in the Mukagachha (Mymensingh) resulted in the detaining of a part-time member, and the wife, allegedly a member of the suicide squad, of another full-time member (the husband was detained earlier and gave his wife's name in a confession).

Finally, another sweep in Dhaka's Mirpur area resulted in the arrest of the JMB explosives expert "Boma Mizan" (who RAB has been seeking for a while now) and his wife, though her links to the JMB aren't clear.

These recent arrests seem to show that RAB and local law enforcers are well aware of JMB's activities and evolution. As earlier articles noted, many of the alleged detainees are linked to other members through marriage or blood. If this trends continues it would seem that offspring are being indoctrinated by parents (to some extent) and that spouses could share some political views (an amateur sociological opinion). Or, some of these detainees are being pressed into JMB service against their will, or otherwise deceived into joining.

The fact that the "IT chief" is a highly educated individual presents an interesting challenge to the prevailing notion that most Islamist militants, at least in South Asia, are poorly educated and poor. That militant extremism cuts across class boundaries isn't earth shattering, but these sorts of arrests should cause policymakers and analysts to step back and ask, why? His motivation should be explored - is there a perception of the Bangladeshi government that is shared by these individuals? Do these individual share common grievances? Or is there simply a shared education that leads the students to the conclusion that murder and destruction are an acceptable means to an end?

The other interesting point is the training link to India. RAB and its intelligence wing will probably be exploring this point in detail. If the "training" turns out to be unsavory, Bangladesh should provide this information to India before making it public so as to allow India time to clamp down on the training camp (if its still there).

The arrest of the JMB's "IT chief" and bomb expert are key victories, a testament to RAB's effectiveness in curtailing the group's activities. Hopefully RAB and the local law enforcement personnel will be as effective in dismantling future extremist groups, before they set off a country-wide bomb attack.

If Bangladesh is serious about improving ties with India a good place to start would be to explore the ULFA connection in depth (in regards to the 2004 Chittagong arms case) or any other transnational extremist groups reportedly operating in Bangladesh.

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