Militant training in remote hills, involvement of ‘local terrorist groups’

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Photo: Collected

Hill Voice, 11 October 2022, Special Correspondent: It is reported that there are training camps of new Islamic militant organization ‘Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya’ (Jamatul Ansar of Eastern Hind) in different hills of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) including Naikshyongchari in Bandarban. It has been alleged that some ‘local terrorist organizations’ are providing armed training to members of this militant organization in return for financial support. Not only weapons training, they are also providing facilities for terrorists to make bombs and to arrange food and shelter.

It is not clear which local terrorist organization is providing training to these militants. However, local sources said that army-backed armed terrorists of the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), widely known as the Bawm Party, are training members of an Islamic militant organization called Jamayat Arakan. It is also alleged that various Islamic militant organizations of the country are getting the opportunity to set up their hideouts and training camps freely under the support of the state machineries as the communal and fanatic atmospheres is prevailing in the CHT under the patronage of the state forces.

Commander Khandaker Al Moin, Director of Law and Media Branch of RAB, said in a press conference yesterday (October 10) in Karwan Bazar of Dhaka that missing people are being trained under the support of some isolated organizations in the CHT region. They are staying there in the name of the new militant organization.

He also said that a joint operation has been started especially in the hills to catch the militants. They have been ordered by the government to eliminate them using maximum force. He said that RAB helicopters have already started patrolling the hilly areas.

According to various sources, this new militant organization named Jamaatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya has been formed by the members of banned militant organization JMB, New JMB, Hizbut Tahrir. Although it was established in 2017, it was renamed after two years. This militant organization is collecting funds from different individuals of the country in the name of financial assistance and developmental activities of madrasas and mosques.

Jamaatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, established as a new militant organization, is conducting its activities in the CHT. The organization has chosen hills as a strategy for military training from their own safety.

According to media sources, 55 youths from 19 districts of the country went missing recently. RAB has revealed the names of 38 youths among them. Those who have been missing for more than one and a half months to two years. But the families claim that their children are abroad. They are also sending money to their families regularly.

RAB has already arrested a total of 12 people, including six youths who voluntarily left their homes motivated by extremism. They were arrested from Jatrabari and Keraniganj areas of the capital in separate raids last Wednesday and Sunday.

Among those arrested, Habibullah used to lead the Quba Mosque in Comilla. Besides, he used to teach in madrasas. He was one of the financial providers of the organization. Dawati activities were conducted in Comilla region under his leadership. Besides, he ran a madrasa for about two years at Naikhyongchari in the CHT region. He used to collect students from different parts of the hills and keep them in his Madrasa. 15-20 members were sent to collection members and taking training.

RAB has received the names of 38 people who received training in CHT. “Motivated by militancy”, youths who went missing from different parts of the country are taking militant training in the hilly areas. Many of them have been trained to take part in armed struggle and bomb blasts. A coordinated operation of the different forces is underway in the hilly areas to arrest them.

Eminent human rights activist Prithi Bindu Chakma said that the state policy in CHT is to turn the non-Muslim CHT into a Muslim-dominated region. Naturally, Islamic militant groups, ultra-nationalist and radical communal organizations and Islamic political parties and organizations are directly or indirectly supported by the administration, state machinery and government in CHT.

He also said that Rohingya militant organizations RSO, ARSA, Alikan, Jamayat-e-Arakan are active under the umbrella of army and BGB in the border area of Ghumdhum Union of Naikhyongchari of Bandarban district. Without taking any effective action against these militant groups, the army and BGB have been providing shelter, setting up base camp and strategic support to them, Mr. Chakma added. Besides, these Rohingya militant organizations are also providing training to the members of various militant organizations in Bangladesh which has come up in various media.

A public representative in Ruma upazila, who did not wish to be named for security reasons, said that Jamayat Arakan militants led by Shamim Mahfuz, a former member of JMB and Harkatul Jihad, has been staying at the hideout of army-backed Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), who is widely known as Bawm Party, in the remote area of Remakri-Prangsa union in Ruma upazila of Bandarban. The public representative added that an agreement has been made between Jamayat Arakan and KNF that KNF will provide shelter and training to Jamaat Arakan militants in their camps and collect weapons for Jamaat Arakan from the China-Myanmar border and in return Jamaat Arakan will provide financial support to Bawm Party.

Despite the presence of militant members of Jamayat Arakan and KNF in Remakri Prangsa area of Ruma, no effective measures have been taken by the army, BGB, law and order forces or the administration against them. Rather, shelter and assistance is being provided in various ways, he alleged.

On the other hand, the security and intelligence forces have been providing patronage and support to the settlers’ ultra-nationalist and radical communal organization ‘Parbatya Chattagram Nagorik Parishad’ (CHT Citizens Council). Although there is a hostile relationship between many political parties at the national level, but the leaders of these national political parties are seen working together in the Parbatya Chattagram Nagorik Parishad to implement the state policy of turning the non-Muslim inhabited CHT into a Muslim inhabited region. Even members of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir have been working together with Awami League-BNP members in this Nagorik Parishad.