Ansar Al Islam gives birth to new militant group named ‘Shahadat’

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Ansar Al Islam, Al Qaeda, Shahadat

In a significant development, one of Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies, RAB-3, has arrested three key members of the newly formed militant group ‘Shahadat’, an offshoot of the banned organization Ansar Al Islam – a local franchise of Al Qaeda. The arrests were made on May 25, 2024, during coordinated raids in the Gulistan and Signboard areas of the capital. The detainees include Ismail Hossain, the head of the recruiting wing, and two regional trainers, Md. Jihad Hossain alias Huzaifa, and Md. Aminul Islam.

The creation of ‘Shahadat’ represents a strategic move by members of Ansar Al Islam to continue their operations under a new banner. According to Commander Arafat Islam, director of RAB’s law and media wing, the formation of ‘Shahadat’ was driven by the increased pressure and crackdowns by law enforcement agencies, which had significantly disrupted the activities of Ansar Al Islam. “In the name of Ansar al-Islam, they are unable to carry out any activities including recruiting new members”, Commander Arafat stated at a press conference held at RAB’s media center in Karwan Bazar.

Ismail Hossain, the arrested leader, played a pivotal role in recruiting new members for both Ansar Al Islam and the newly formed ‘Shahadat’. Alongside Ismail, Md. Jihad Hossain alias Huzaifa and Md. Aminul Islam were responsible for training recruits in various regions. The arrests were made based on intelligence gathered by RAB headquarters, leading to the successful capture of the suspects along with extremist pamphlets intended for recruitment purposes.

The rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan has served as a significant source of inspiration for the arrested individuals and their organization. The ideological leanings of Ansar Al Islam are deeply rooted in the Al Qaeda framework, aiming to establish an Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh. “They joined the militant organization of Al Qaeda ideology ‘Ansar al Islam’,” Commander Arafat elaborated. The formation of ‘Shahadat’ was a direct response to the operational challenges faced by Ansar Al Islam, allowing them to recruit and mobilize under less scrutiny.

Ismail Hossain disclosed during interrogation that the group is being led by Salahuddin, a figure currently residing abroad. Salahuddin’s role in the organization includes overseeing recruitment and training operations from his foreign location. Other members of ‘Shahadat’ are dispersed across various parts of Bangladesh, including Dhaka, Chattogram, Jashore, and Sathkhira, where they continue their activities in a decentralized manner.

Ismail’s background as a madrasa student and his meeting with Salahuddin about a year ago mark the beginning of his involvement in militant activities. Similarly, Jihad Hossain, a madrasa teacher, and Aminul Islam, a garment worker, reflect the diverse backgrounds from which the organization recruits its members. The use of madrasa networks has been particularly effective in indoctrinating young students into their cause.

The emergence of ‘Shahadat’ underscores the persistent threat posed by militant groups adapting to evade law enforcement. Despite the crackdown on Ansar Al Islam, the ability of these groups to rebrand and recruit indicates a resilient underground network. Law enforcement agencies face the dual challenge of dismantling these networks while addressing the ideological roots that sustain them.

The involvement of madrasa students and teachers highlights a critical area for intervention. Many of these individuals are swayed by extremist ideologies disseminated through online speeches and literature. The role of educational institutions in either facilitating or combating radicalization is a crucial aspect of the broader counterterrorism strategy.

The arrests of Ismail, Jihad, and Aminul are a testament to the ongoing efforts of RAB and other law enforcement agencies to curtail militant activities in Bangladesh. However, the existence of more than a hundred members within ‘Shahadat’ suggests that the threat is far from neutralized. Continuous vigilance and proactive measures are essential to prevent the further spread of extremist ideologies.

Law enforcement agencies commitment to disrupting these groups is evident in their operations, yet the complexity of the threat requires a multifaceted approach. Collaboration with international agencies, intelligence sharing, and community engagement are vital components of an effective counterterrorism strategy.

The formation of ‘Shahadat’ by members of Ansar Al Islam illustrates the evolving tactics of militant groups in Bangladesh. While the arrests of key members mark a significant achievement, the broader challenge of countering extremism remains. It is imperative for law enforcement and community leaders to work together to address the ideological and operational facets of this threat, ensuring a safer and more secure Bangladesh.

According to a sources, Ansar Al Islam maintains connections with West Bengal-based militancy groups such as Hizbul Mujahedin.

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