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Homeland Security

Bangladeshi Sentenced for August Bombings, But Ringleaders Remain at Large

16 January 2006

A Bangladesh court has sentenced a member of an Islamic militant group to prison for his part in hundreds of nearly simultaneous bombings across the country last August. A series of bombings in Bangladesh in the past year has raised worries about growing Islamic militancy in the Muslim-majority country.

Twenty-four-year-old Obaidullah Sumon was sentenced to 15 years in prison Sunday after a special court convicted him of possessing explosives and bomb-making material. Suman was arrested last September in connection with serial bomb blasts that hit the country August 17.

He is the first person to be convicted in the attacks, which saw 400 small bombs go off across the country.

Bangladeshi officials say he is a member of Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin, an outlawed group accused of masterminding several deadly bombings, including the country's first suicide attacks. The group has called for the imposition of strict Islamic law in the secular country.

Sumon's conviction comes as opposition groups and political analysts charge that the government is not doing enough to crack down on Islamic militants.

Ajay Sahni, who heads the Institute of Conflict Management in the Indian capital of New Delhi, says the conviction of Sumon ignores the fact that top-level leaders of Jamaat-ul-Mujahedin and other militant Islamic groups are still at large.

"It is a case where a very low-level operative has been sentenced," he said. "I don't think this reflects anything but the pro forma demonstration to the world that 'we are trying to do something. But until we see the top leaders arrested, I think we cannot say they are serious," he said.

Hundreds of suspected militants have been taken into custody in recent months in connection with the bomb attacks. The attacks have triggered worries that Islamic militants are putting down roots in the country.

The Bangladesh government says it is determined to crush the terrorists, and has vowed to put all arrested militants on trial. But many analysts say the government has been unable to move too strongly against the Islamic groups, because it relies on hard-line Islamic parties for political support.

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