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by Jul 11, 2024Blogs0 comments

Al Qaeda-franchise Ansar Al Islam operates from West Bengal under new name


Al Qaeda-franchise Ansar Al Islam, previously known as Jamaatul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) has established a new front named – ‘As Shahadah’, which is controlled by several jihadist kingpins including Salauddin Salehin and Habibullah from have been living in West Bengal since 2014. Recently it was exposed when Bangladesh’s anti-militancy elite force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) launched an operation based on secret tip-off and arrested three active members of ‘As Shahadah’ from Chowfondi area under Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh. Large volume of explosives and jihadist materials have been seized from their possession.

It may be mentioned here that, Salauddin Salehin, a top leader of the outlawed militant group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which is now known as Ansar Al Islam, was snatched by his cohorts from a prison van in Mymensingh district’s Trishal area in 2014. Since then, Salehin has been living in West Bengal and spreading jihadist networks in India.

In 2020, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) told media, Salauddin Salehin, who was involved in blasts in Bodh Gaya and Khagragarh in Burdwan, managed to give it a slip on three occasions.

NIA official further said, “Salauddin also visited Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala to spread JMB’s network among Bangla speaking laborers there. We arrested Jahidul Islam, a key suspect in the Khagragarh blast case, in Bengaluru in August, 2018 and after interrogating him, we came to know Salauddin’s activities in south Indian states”.

The NIA sleuths came to know Salauddin has been hiding in Cooch Behar, North Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia villages located along India-Bangladesh border region. “He was at Gitaldaha village in Cooch Behar pretending to be a religious teacher. We raided the village but he left a day before we arrived there. He was staying at a house at Mukimnagar village in Murshidabad district but managed to give us a slip when we raided the place”, NIA added.

Following this successful operation, Commander Arafat Islam, director of Legal and Media wing of RAB told reporters, ‘As Shahadah’ is mainly recruiting juveniles by luring them into jihad through social media platforms. The arrested militants were attracted by Al Qaeda.

He said, due to regular operations of RAB, Ansar Al Islam had to almost wrap-up its activities. At this stage, kingpins of this outfit decided to re-start jihadist recruitment activities under the garb of a new group named ‘As Shahadah’. Currently there are 85-100 members of this group – both inside Bangladesh and West Bengal.

Commander Arafat Islam said, ‘As Shahadah’ claims its Bangladesh chapter as a branch. In-charge of the Bangladesh chapter of ‘As Shahadah’ is Ismail Hossain, who was earlier arrested by the elite force.

According to sources, key objective of ‘As Shahadah’ is to establish a Caliphate in Bangladesh. With this target, targeted youths are attracted to jihadist activities by brainwashing them with fake stories of “repression on Muslims” in India, Israel and the Western nations. They also brainwash youths by stating, as democracy is forbidden in Islam, each of the state machinery operating under democracy are haram (forbidden). Youths are told, unless they raise voice and wage jihad against pro-democracy forces as well as “enemies of Islam” including Hindus, Christians and Jews, one day Islam will be wiped-off from the map of the world. Such propaganda continues through various communication apps – including Telegram and WhatsApp. In addition to running propaganda through these platforms, recruited jihadists are invited to join secret meetings and orientation courses at various religious establishments, such as mosques and madrassas, as well as residences of jihadist leaders.

RAB source further said, members of ‘As Shahadah’ are given training on hacking techniques of mobile phones and social media accounts, while they regularly target various social media accounts, pages and groups that oppose jihad and Caliphate.

Another source, seeking anonymity said, in the recent years, jihadist outfits such as Ansar Al Islam are giving instigations to youths by focusing “Muslim’s war against infidels” in Afghanistan as well as “war against Jews, Zionists and Israel” in Palestine.

It said, for the past several months, jihadist groups are almost openly running campaign on social media and video-sharing sites by branding products manufactured mainly in India as “products from enemies of Islam”. They have been taking advantage of ongoing “India Out”, “Boycott Indian Products”, “Boycott Coca Cola” and “Boycott Zionist Products” in generating anti-Hindu and anti-Semite sentiment within Muslims in Bangladesh.

The source further said, members of ‘As Shahadah’ are running campaigns against Indian products as well as products from non-Muslim nations while it is promoting products made in Afghanistan, Palestine, Turkey, Syria and other Muslim nations. Recently, when Islamists began massive campaign against ‘Coca Cola’ in Bangladesh, a group of radical Muslims began importing a soft-drink namely ‘Pami Cola’ from Afghanistan and been trying to create a dominant market for this imported item by knocking-out locally bottled soft-drinks such as ‘Coca Cola’. An unverified source claims, company that manufactures Pamir Cola in the Herat area in Afghanistan is partially owned by Al Qaeda and Haqqani Network.

Earlier it was reported in the media that on June 22, 2024, Special Task Force in West Bengal arrested a jihadist named Habibullah by cracking encrypted messages. He is suspected as the head of Ansar Al Islam module in India. It is further learnt; Al Qaeda franchise Ansar Al Islam has been operating in West Bengal for a long time.

According to the Special Task Force, members of Ansar Al Islam have been working with the target of terrorist attacks in India and Bangladesh.

(Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and Editor, Blitz, a newspaper publishing from Bangladesh since 2003. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers. Follow him on X @Salah_Shoaib)

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