Terrorism Monitor: "The Shifting Narrative of Women’s Role in Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh’s Islamic Jihad"

November 28, 2018

Bangladesh’s most lethal home-grown militant organization, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)—which has multiple ideological and operational factions, including the Islamic State (IS)-inspired neo-JMB and al-Qaeda linked core Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JM)—has gained notoriety over the last few years for recruiting and nurturing a network of women militants. Despite robust counter-terrorism operations following the July 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attacks in the capital Dhaka, an alarming number of women are taking up the cause of militancy. The intermittent arrests and events involving JMB’s women operatives across the country and beyond in the last couple of years have become a major headache for Bangladesh’s security establishment.

Two cases in 2018 involving JMB’s female operatives made national and international headlines. In February 2018, two sisters linked to the neo-JMB faction and inspired by the IS’s jihadist ideals were arrested and charged for carrying out separate knife attacks in both Melbourne, Australia and in Dhaka. On February 9, Momena Shoma, a Bangladeshi student enrolled to study linguistics at La Trobe University stabbed her homestay’s landlord Roger Singaravelu in the neck to fulfil a moral obligation to the Islamic State’s call for jihad (Sunday Morning Herald, February 14; Prothom Alo [Dhaka], September 21). Her sister, Asmaul Husna, carried out a similar knife attack targeting Dhaka Police’s Assistant Commissioner Tohidul Islam on February 12 when the local police officials were enquiring about the Melbourne incident and possible JMB-IS links (Daily Star, February 14). Both sisters were in their early twenties and admitted to their neo-JMB links and IS inspiration during the following investigations.

In Bangladesh, myriad militant extremist groups such as the JMB, Ansar al-Islam (formerly Ansarullah Bangla Team) and Hizbut Tahirir-Bangladesh (HT-B) have been engaging women operatives mostly for religious teaching and as supporting members like couriers and informants. A new trend has been emerging since mid-2016, where women operatives are found to be carrying out violent combat operations. One media estimate suggested that by December 2016, Bangladesh police had arrested at least 20 women militants from different groups including JMB, with evidence of a possible all-women suicide team (The Independent, December 25, 2016).

Evidently, JMB is a pioneer in engaging women for jihadist activities that include suicide missions in addition to supporting tasks. They even trained the women cadres to use hand grenades and knives. Between July and September 2016, Bangladeshi authorities arrested around 12 women JMB operatives. [1] In early September 2016, the detective branch of the Bangladesh police arrested four female members of JMB belonging to a suicide group from the Kazipur area of Sirajganj district. They were arrested in the house of senior JMB leader, Faridul Islam, while holding a meeting to discuss the recruitment of new women cadres to carry out violent attacks (Poriborton News, September 5, 2016).

For the Complete article, See, Animesh Roul, "The Shifting Narrative of Women’s Role in Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh’s Islamic Jihad",  Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation,  Vol. 16 (22), November 17, 2018.

Animesh Roul, Terrorism Monitor (Jamestown Foundation) November 17, 2018