Counterterrorism units in Bangladesh are looking for Mahmudul Hasan Gunbi, one of the top leaders of Al Qaeda affiliated militancy group Dawat-ul Islam. It is also learned that Dawat-ul Islam is connected to the Manhaji school of thought of pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam. Months ago, Hefazat-e-Islam has formed alliance with several militancy outfits, including Hizbut Tahrir and Ansar Al Islam, while it also has links with Pakistani spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) as well as Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.
Back in 2020, Dawat-ul Islam, under the directives of Al Qaeda had opened Dawatul Islam Tritio Linger Madrasa for the transgender Muslims in the country. Following the establishment of this transgender madrassa, local cleric and member of Hefazat-e-Islam, Abdur Rahman Azad, who transformed the top floor of a three-story building into the madrassa although claimed to have implemented the project with “funding from local charity”, according to counterterrorism experts, this madrassa too was established with a dubious foreign fund. The reason behind the establishment of this madrassa for the transgender community was to radicalize and recruit towards jihadist activities.
According to media reports, while Mahmudul Hasan Gunbi is still on run, Dawat-ul Islam’s two other leaders Harun Izhar and Ali Hasan Osama have been arrested by the law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh. Earlier, Maulana Nazimuddin, the Emir of Dawat-ul Islam was arrested on several militancy charges.
Harun Izhar is the son of Mufti Izharul Islam, one of the founders of Hefazat-e-Islam. Mufti Izhar has published a book on the slain Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, in which he claims to have met the latter while working for the terror group in Kabul for more than three years.
In Bangladesh, Dawatul Islam has set up two militant hideouts at Lama and Khagrachari in Bandarban district. There are more than 50 militant leaders active in the hill tracts.
Authorities allege that Gunbi lures people in the hill tract areas under the garb of Tablighi Jamaat or “inviting people to Islam”. Innocent youngsters fall prey to the militants’ fake identity as Tablighi Jamaat has succeeded in hiding its real identity in the majority of the countries in the world.
In Bangladesh, Dawat-ul Islam has been also running its activities on social media platforms maintaining hundreds of accounts.
According to credible sources, Hefazat-e-Islam has been running militancy training camps in Khagrachhari in Bandarban in Bangladesh. Although these camps are operated under the supervision of Dawat-ul Islam, it is actually linked to Al Qaeda as well as Pakistani spy agency ISI. Dawat-ul Islam has also been providing training to the members of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a jihadist outfit of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. Earlier it was reported in the media that ARSA has already succeeded in recruiting over 2,500 Rohingya male and female Muslims as jihadists. ARSA receives finance from Pakistani ISI as well as Turkey, Qatar, and Iran. Most of these militancy outfits, including ARSA, Ansar Al Islam, Hefazat-e-Islam etcetera are maintaining connections with militancy outfits such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas and Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba, alongside Al Qaeda and Islamic State. It may be mentioned here that, according to reports, thousands of Bangladeshi nationals have been traveling to Gaza and joined “jihad” against Israel. Similarly, since 2017, members of Myanmar’s Rohingya community are also joining Hamas both for taking commando training as well fighting against the Israeli forces. In most cases, on their return, these Bangladeshi and Myanmar Rohingyas, being inspired by their ‘Palestinian mujahedeen brethren’ continue jihadist activities either by joining local militancy groups or work as lone wolves, thus posing a serious threat to national security.
It may be mentioned here that, decades ago, thousands of Bangladeshis went to Afghanistan to fight against Soviet Army. Subsequently, they became jihadists, while many of them joined Al Qaeda, others formed various militancy entities under different titles and leadership. The whole bunch of Afghan fighters turned into a major threat to the security of Bangladesh and the region.