Vol. 5 Num 533 Sat. November 26, 2005  
Front Page

Terror-financing NGOs remain unscathed

Certain Middle East-based international non-governmental organisations operating in the country are still untouched despite months-old intelligence confirmation of their financing the Islamist militant outfits.

After the August 17 countrywide orchestrated bomb strikes, intelligence reports recommended that the government ban the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) and take action against a number of other Middle Eastern NGOs found to be linked with the Islamist extremists.

"Arresting the militants and busting their dens are not the only solutions when they continue to enjoy foreign funding," remarked an investigator.

Following the arrest of Islamist militant kingpin Asadullah Al-Galib, chief of Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab), intelligence agencies found further evidence of such funding -- by cheque and cash and sometimes even by hundi.

The investigators recovered a large number of computer documents, diaries, notes, books, booklets, leaflets and audiocassettes from Galib's house, and Ahab offices and madrasas in Rajshahi. Analysing the information retrieved from the documents the investigators arrived at a more or less accurate profile of Galib including his connections with Islamist militants and funding agencies abroad.

From confessions and statements of arrested militants, and accounts of expenditures and diaries of militants seized by the law enforcers, investigators learned that the banned Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is implementing plans originally hatched by Ahab and another outlawed group Harkat-ul Jihad (HuJi).

The JMB spends roughly Tk 60 lakh a year for maintaining its full-time leaders and cadres, and Tk 1 to 5 crore for buying explosives and firearms and executing attacks, they learned.

Intelligence sources said, apart from a 7-member majlish-e-sura, the central governing body, the JMB has 16 regional commanders, 64 district-heads, hundreds of operations commanders and around 200 Ehsars or full-time cadres. Among the operational commanders, Bangla Bhai alone has the distinction of being a member of the majlish-e-sura.

The JMB also has a suicide squad. The family of every suicide bomber is slated to get Tk 50,000 to 1 lakh or more in compensation for a 'sacrifice'.

A high-ranking JMB source told The Daily Star he handles Tk 46,000 to Tk 50,000 a month to run his regional network encompassing four districts.

Last year JMB chief Abdur Rahman told the media he had a network of 10,000 full-time trained operatives and one lakh part-time activists, run with more than $10,000 a month.

The RIHS is on top of the list of suspected donors of the Islamist militants. Following the intelligence recommendation to ban the RIHS, its chief Abdul Aziz Khalaf Malullah of Kuwait visited Dhaka in August 14 to 21. He called on three cabinet members and lobbied for the RIHS.

Investigators believe Malullah left a large amount of money with the local RIHS officials. Sources said he has recently sent a letter to the Bureau of NGO Affairs seeking permission for another visit to Bangladesh.

On insistence of intelligence agencies, Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested RIHS Director Ekramuzzaman in September but had to release him as he had an anticipatory bail in his possession.

In 2002, the US Department of State blacklisted some RIHS offices, citing their support to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

The RIHS with assistance from Galib constructed over 1000 mosques, 10 madrasas, four orphanages-cum-madrasas and a kidney dialysis centre across the country. The mosques and madrasas were later proved to be centres of militant activities of the JMB.

After the August 17 blasts, five foreign officials of the RIHS, two Sudanese, two Algerian and one Libyan, left the country under pressure from the government. Before joining the RIHS the five had worked for Al-Haramain in Bangladesh, an NGO banned worldwide for financing al-Qaeda.

Bangladesh banned Al-Haramain in July 2004 at requests of the US and Saudi Arabia. All the 14 foreign officials of Al-Haramain left Bangladesh after the ban. But four of them returned several months later and joined the RIHS secretly.

The rest of the NGOs now under close intelligence watch include Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, Al-Muntada Al-Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Ar-Rib, Dar Al-Khair, Hayatul Igachha and Tawheed-e-Noor. Galib himself talked about receiving funds from Ar-Rib.

All these NGOs have been active in the country since the mid-1990s. The investigators also found that a number of foreigners, who came to Bangladesh from various Middle Eastern and African countries with tourist visa, have been working at these NGOs without the government's permission.