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Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT)

Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) is an Islamic extremist group in Bangladesh that started its activities during 2007 as the Jama’atul Muslemin, funded by different NGOs. The group ceased to operate when funding ended. It resurfaced during 2013 as the ABT.

The group is influenced by renowned extremist ideologues, such as Anwar Al-Awlaki. ABT objectives include the radicalisation of youths in Bangladesh, inciting active participation in a local jihad and seeking control of areas in Bangladesh. The group reflects a young generation of jihadists in Bangladesh, which use cyberspace extensively in propagating jihadist ideology and training manuals to guide terror attacks. ABT also uses mosques in propagating its ideological objectives.

Radical Islamist outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team was been banned in Bangladesh May 25, 2015. Home Ministry issued a gazette in this regard.

On August 12, 2013 Bangladeshi authorities arrested the leader of the ABT, Mufti Jasimuddin Rahmani, with 30 members from Barguna (a southwestern district in Bangladesh) for inciting a jihad at mosques.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on an Italian missionary in Bangladesh, the latest in a string of attacks targeting foreigners and Bangladeshi secularists. On November 19, 2015 an Italian priest working in Bangladesh as a doctor, was wounded by unknown gunmen in the northern Bangladesh district of Dinajpur Wednesday. A day later, the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online activities of radical Islamic groups, reported that Islamic State (IS) had claimed responsibility. Islamic State also claimed credit for killing an Italian aid worker in late September 2015 and a Japanese citizen in October 2015.

Between February and October 2015 four secular bloggers and one publisher were hacked to death in Bangladesh. According to police, they were murdered by Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), a local hard-line Islamist outfit. On 27 February 2015, Avijit Roy, son of noted physicist Ajoy Roy and founder of Mukto-Mona blog, was killed and his wife Rafida Afrin Banya injured seriously as unidentified criminals stabbed them near TSC on the Dhaka University campus. One month after the killing of Avijit Roy, another blogger named Washiqur Rahman Babu was hacked to death by a group of assailants at Begunbari of Tejgoan industrial area of the city on March 30. Later on May 12, blogger Ananta Bijoy Das, also an activist of Sylhet Ganajagaran Manch, was hacked to death by a group of assailants in broad daylight at Subidbazar Bankalapara in Sylhet city.

Blogger Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, who was residing at a rented flat on the 4th floor of a multi-storey building at Goran in the city, was hacked to death on 07 August 2015. He was the fourth Bangladeshi blogger killed so far this year. 'Ansarullah Bangla Team’, the banned Islamic militant outfit, might have been involved in the killing of blogger Niloy, suspect detectives, according to Joint Commissioner (Detective Branch) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam 11 August 2015. The DB official said there is similarity between the murder of bloggers killed earlier and that of Niloy. “Prima facie, it seems to us that Ansarullah Bangla Team is involved in the Niloy killing.”

A police spokesperson said 13 October 2015 the investigators doubt the claims as the style of propaganda usually adopted by Islamic State do not match the style followed after the killings in Bangladesh. He, however, said, "We have not found any versions from the recognised platform run by the IS or their other concerns.... Secondly, IS uses firearms only where there is a war-like satiation but here the situation is not like that," he added, saying, "We came to know that the Japanese converted to Islam. Why will the IS kill a Muslim?"

SITE Intelligence Group director Rita Katz said 13 October 2015 "my advice to security agencies in Bangladesh is not to dismiss these claims or deny the presence of ISIS followers in their country… security agencies should learn, research, and study the ISIS threat before it gets worse".

She added "what’s happening in Bangladesh, like in other countries, is the effect of ISIS’s highly effective propaganda and outward growth.... Since July of 2014, soon after announcing the Caliphate, ISIS media was published in Bengali on social media. These things considered, are ISIS claims that surprising? Is Bangladesh somehow immune to what countries all over the world aren’t?"

The Islamic extremist organisation in Bangladesh is implicated in the brutal attacks on bloggers from 2013 to 2015. Five members of the group confessed to the murder of Ahmed Rajib Haider on February 15, 2013. Another four have been arrested for the attack on blogger Asif Mohiuddin. They also claimed responsibility for the murder of three bloggers – Avijit Roy, Oyashiqur Rahman Babu, and Ananta Bijoy Das – and the murder of Rajshahi University sociology professor AKM Shafiul Islam.

The government of Bangladesh vehemently denies that Islamic State or any international terrorist organization has any foothold in the country. Instead, officials claim that ABT and the opposition alliance led by Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami have been behind all of these attacks. Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque urged bloggers not to "cross the limit" while writing, saying the "freethinkers" should keep in mind that hurting someone's religious sentiment is a criminal offence.

In an interview published in the April 2016 issue of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq, Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, who was introduced as the head of the organization’s Bangladesh wing, said efforts to recruit “soldiers of the Khilafah (Caliphate)” in Bangladesh has gained “great momentum” with many Muslims joining its ranks. “Bengal (Bangladesh) is an important region for the Kh­ilafah and the global jihad due to its strategic geographic position… a strong jihad base in Bengal will facili­tate performing guerrilla attacks inside India… Also, jihad in Bengal is a stepping-stone for jihad in Burma,” Hanif said in the interview. Hanif added that IS has succeeded in building a base by attracting Muslims following the organization’s campaign in Bengali language in the social media.

This claim by the Islamic State (IS) that it has launched a new front in Bangladesh and its local fighters are gearing up to launch attacks on India and Myanmar was dismissed by the government in Dhaka, which says the militant group has no presence in the South Asian nation. Authorities insist the group does not have a functioning network in the country and blame the opposition alliance, led by Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) for the attacks.

Retired Major General Mohammad Abdur Rashid, executive director of Dhaka’s Institute of Conflict, Law & Development Studies, said all terrorist outfits in Bangladesh are homegrown and their creations were linked to the turbulence of the country’s domestic politics.



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