Terror and Politics: Lashkar-e-Taiba, HuJI and Assassinations in Bangladesh

Animesh Roul

Very often western observers play down the existence and influence of Pakistan based Lashkar- e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami inside Bangladesh’s territory. Investigations into number of terror strikes in Bangladesh occurred between May 2004 and December 2005 have revealed, rather unearthed, a lethal nexus between these two Pakistan based terror groups and couple of mainstream political parties (Pro-Islamic Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) in Bangladesh. It also revealed how they teamed up to score a political point by assassinating rival political leaders.

The LeT had sent a cache of ‘Arges’ grenades to HuJI’s Bangladesh franchise which were used in at least seven major terror attacks, six of them targeting then opposition Awami League leaders including AL leader and present Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina, British High Commissioner in Dhaka Anwar Choudhury and Awami League legislator and a former finance minster Shah AMS Kibria. These deadly Austrian manufactured Arges grenades (allegedly counterfeited by Pakistan military/ISI) have been used by Pakistan based terrorists and more recently used in Mumbai 2008 attacks.

List of high profile assassination attempts with ‘Arges’ grenade:

May 21, 2004: British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury was wounded in a grenade attack. While Anwar miraculously escaped the attack with minor injuries, at least three people got killed in that attack and 70 others injured. The attempted assassination by HuJI terrorists came when Anwar was visiting the Shrine of Shah Jalal in Sylhet.

June 21, 2004: Similar grenade attacks took place at a rally of AL leader Suranjit Sengupta in Sunamganj (at Derai subdivision). One AL activist was killed and nearly 30 people were injured in that attack. Suranjit Sengupta escaped unhurt.

August 07, 2004: HuJI terrorists lobbed a grenade targeting an Awami League gathering that left one AL leader (AL publicity secretary Mohammad Ibrahim) killed and 25 others seriously injured. The attack took place moments after the City Mayor and AL’s Sylhet chief Badaruddin Ahmed Kamran left the venue after the meeting.

August 21, 2004: In an attempt to assassinate Sheikh Hasina, terrorists lobbed a series of grenades targeting Awami League (AL) leader Sheikh Hasina’s rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in Dhaka. Attacks left at least 24 people killed and hundreds including senior AL leaders Abdur Razzak, Amir Hossain Amu, Suranjit Sengupta, and Kazi Zafarullah critically injured. A lesser known Islamist outfit Hikmat-ul-Zihad claimed responsibility for the grenade attacks in Dhaka. A person named Hider Rob had e-mailed a message to a vernacular daily Prothom Alo issuing a threat to kill Sheikh Hasina. The message reads like this: “Don’t think that Sheikh Hasina is out of danger. We missed our previous chance but now we are very careful for our mission. Tell her to be prepared. We are coming and this time we will accomplish our target within seven days.”

January 27, 2005: AL leader and former finance minister, Shah AMS Kibria, and four other AL members were killed and at least 50 persons sustained injuries during a grenade attack on an AL rally at Boidder Bazaar in the Habiganj district, some 120 kilometers northeast of the capital Dhaka.

December 02, 2005: Sylhet city Mayor Badruddin Ahmed Kamran escaped similar grenade attack (a dud one) again during a local Badminton Competition at Tilagarh area of the city.
Investigating agencies in Bangladesh claimed that at least 32 Arges grenades sent by Lashkar e Taiba to Huji-B operatives and those were used in at least seven major terror attacks during that period: Six of them targeted AL leaders and the other was on Anwar Choudhury. Huji along with its political patrons aimed to eliminate AL leaders considered Anti Islam and Pro-India and used these imported Grenades with great effect.

Subsequent investigations into these terror acts unearthed how this cache of Grenades shipped into Bangladesh from Pakistan. Many of the accused including HuJi chief Mufti Abdul Hannan, are behind bars now. Now Bangladeshi agencies are probing to find out the extent of LeT and HuJi links that plagued the region since long.

Author Note
Animesh Roul is the Executive Director of Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict, New Delhi