The Bangladesh government attributes the deadly Sunday attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. However, according to monitoring group SITE, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the hostage siege at the café.
Sheikh Hasina’s government insists that neither the Islamic State nor Al-Qaeda has yet gained a foothold in Bangladesh.
“Let me make it clear again, there are no IS or Al-Qaeda presence or existence in Bangladesh…the hostage takers were all home-grown terrorists,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.
He further added, “We know them (hostage-takers) along with their ancestors, they all grew here in Bangladesh... they belong to homegrown outfits like JMB (Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh).”
Unlike the IS or Al-Qaeda, the JMB is an infrequently-covered terrorist organisation. For the past three years, writers, bloggers, gay rights activists have been killed in Bangladesh by dubious men. In April 2016, a secular blogger Nazimuddin Samad was murdered by macheté-wielding attackers in Bangladesh, according to The Diplomat.
The New York Times quoted the chief of Bangladesh’s police counter terrorism unit Monirul Islam as saying that JMB and Ansar al-Islam are two groups that fight against secularism. JMB is the reorganised offshoot of an organisation which was banned in 2005 for setting off about 500 bombs simultaneously all around Bangladesh.
According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), JMB was formed in 1998 in the Jamalpur district by Shaikh Abdur Rahman and it was noticed in 2002 with the arrest of eight Islamist militants in the Dinajpur district.
In 2003, the JMB reportedly carried out seven bomb explosions in Dinajpur. In 2005, it coordinated almost simultaneous bombings all over the country and was banned on 23 February, 2005.
Through leaflets left at the site of explosions, the JMB said “We’re the soldiers of Allah. We have taken up arms for the implementation of Allah's law the way Prophet, Sahabis and heroic Mujahideen have done for centuries… It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made law.”
Evidently, the JMB’s ideology is to replace the government of Bangladesh with a one based on Sharia law.
The Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) says that the JMB opposes the political system of Bangladesh and seeks to build “a society based on the Islamic model laid out in Holy Quran-Hadith.” It is opposed to democracy and socialism, much like the Islamic State.
According to Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, JMB has already terrorised people in western and south-western Bangladesh. Its main targets are members of the judiciary, public figures, intellectuals, minority groups, liberals and activists.
Interestingly, a CNN report suggests that JMB pledges its allegience to IS. However, no substantial proof of the same has been found yet. Global Security on the other hand, suspects it to be the youth wing of Al-Mujahideen or to be linked to Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh.
According to SATP, the terrorist outfit is also opposed to cinema halls, shrines and NGOs. It aims is also to end practices that brought women out of their houses.
The New York Times reported that the terrorist group has trained about 100 madrassa students as killers and organises them in groups of four or five.
Since 2007, Maulana Saidur Rahman has reportedly been heading the JMB spiritually. It was suspected to be led by a triumvirate prior to 2007. Bangla Bhai functioned as ‘second in command’. However, both Rahman and Bangla Bhai were arrested on 26 may, 2010 and is undergoing a trial for the 2005 blasts.
Since 2005, the JMB has launched a series of suicide attacks on courthouses, killing a number of people, reported Global Security.
In 2007, the Bangladesh government executed six leaders of the group for killing two judges and conspiring the 2005 blasts. The group also has a seven member Mujlish-e-Shura, which managed the operational activities. Its network is spread all over Bangladesh.
The JMB is funded from individual donors from countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia or from some NGOs. According to Global Security, security forces recovered large amount of arms and ammunition from a madrasa run by an UK based charity organisation Green Crescent that is suspected to have links with JMB.
The JMB leaders have reportedly invested in a large number of shrimp farms and cold storages in south-western Bangladesh.
It also trains its cadres in making bombs and targeting foreigners. According to an official of the National Investigating Agency, the organisation was planning to topple the Bangladesh government in 2015 by establishing a network in India.
The terror attack in Dhaka on Sunday is also being linked to Pakistan’s ISI. Hossain Toufique Imam, the political advisor to Sheikh Hasina told NDTV that “"Pakstan's ISI and Jamaat connection is well known... they want to derail the current government.”
JMB is also reportedly spreading its base in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Assam.
These bases are being used for organising radicalisation programmes and funding collection drives.