Vol. 5 Num 441 Mon. August 22, 2005  
Front Page

Inside the Militant Groups-2
Foreign funding, local business keep them going

From outward appearance they were doing social works as welfare organisations, building mosques and setting up madrasas for the underprivileged children, many of whom are orphans.

Then they started investing in businesses in such sectors as transport, pharmaceuticals, financial institutions, real estate, media and education.

But behind the humanitarian and business fašade, they were organising terrorists imbued with the ideals of armed Islamic revolution. Funding was no problem for them -- shady funders in Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia extended their hands, filling the pockets of the militant organisations.

Outside the official channel, these organisations also bring in funds through money laundering. There was a time when financial institutions in Lahore and Karachi were the main distributors of terror funding flowing into Bangladesh. But after the Pakistan government clamped down on these institutions, funds are now coming to Bangladesh in the form of Hundi through Jessore, Chittagong and Dhaka, according to a source who has conducted detailed investigations on terrorism in Bangladesh for an international terror watch agency.

A study by the Human Development Research Centre (HDRC) has affirmed that these organisations, once dependent on foreign funding, are now big enough to gather funds internally through various businesses.

According to the HDRC, these organisations earn about Tk 1,200 crore a year from their business investment.

These militants have invested in a large number of shrimp farms, using fake names and a good number of cold storages in the south-western region, according to Khulna police.

Saudi-based NGO Al Haramaine Islamic Institute is one such organisation that brought in Tk 20 crore through the NGO Affairs Bureau from 1997 to 2001, its annual report of 2002 said. It was finally banned in September 2002 after the UN listed it as a terror cell. Haramaine had Tk 19 crore more in the pipeline to be spent on Islamic education in 38 districts. The police arrested seven foreign citizens of Al Haramaine in September 2002 and later, under a special arrangement with a Middle Eastern country, they were taken to a five-star hotel right from the Dhaka Judge's Court and then put on a flight under strict secrecy.

Militants received funds for madrasas from UAE-based welfare organisations Al Fuzaira and Khairul Ansar Al Khairia, Kuwait-based Doulatul Kuwait and Revival of Islamic Heritage Society and Bahrain-based Doulatul Bahrain, said intelligence sources.

The HDRC study said the JMJB, under a programme called 'Operation Research', received funds from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Muslim World League.

Laden's close associate Enam Arnot and his organisation Benevolence International Organisation, which was registered with the NGO Bureau, had bank accounts in Bangladesh. A UN report said he was a top fundraiser for Laden.

Pakistani citizen Mohammad Sajid, who was arrested for attacking poet Shamsur Rahman on January 18, 1999, told police that he received Tk 2 crore and gave it to someone called Bakhtiar. Bakhtiar, when arrested in Sirajganj the same year, confessed to police that he distributed the money among 421 madrasas for training activists of Harkatul Jihad (Huji).

Both the militants said Laden had sponsored them to develop madrasa infrastructure.

The Korea Times reported on October 13 last year that three Bangladeshis, who were deported to Dhaka from Seoul in April the same year, collected about $87,000 and sent the money to Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh. The three were members of a Seoul-based Islamic Organisation, Dawatul Islam. Bangladesh embassy in Seoul, however, denied the contents of the report.

Dr Asadullah Al Galib, a militant now under arrest for attacking different NGOs including Brac and Grameen Bank, had confessed to the Joint Interrogation Cell (JIC) that he received around Tk 27 crore every year from the Middle East, especially from an organisation called Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) of Kuwait. RIHS was registered with the NGO Affairs Bureau on January 11, 1996. In his version, Galib spent the funds on the JMB, JMJB and AL Hiqma, all banned and the first one is suspected to be involved in the August 17 bombings. Since Galib's arrest, the government stopped disbursement of funds from RIHS.

RIHS was blacklisted by the State Department on September 9, 2002 for funding Islamist terrorists.