Analyzing the current security threat of terrorism to the state

View with images and charts

Analyzing the current security threat of terrorism to the state.


1.1: Introduction

Since her independence of 1971, Bangladesh has faced many problems including famine, political assassination, despotism, corruption and many other problems. During 1999 Bangladesh has been facing new sorts of problems, including bomb blasts in cultural programs, cinema hall, shrine, political parties mass gathering, to the advocates and even to the judges of Bangladesh. Even for those who have long focused on the growth of Islamist extremism and terror in Bangladesh, the sheer scale and dispersal of the 459 coordinated bomb blasts within a single hour on August 17, 2005 across 63 of the country’s 64 districts came as a surprise.

Unlike other developing countries terrorism and corruption are very common in Bangladesh, but the initiatives to defend these two problems are very limited here. People can only think about the terrorism, but can’t take any action or measure to protect the terrorist activities.

As the Bangladesh government, opposition party and other major political parties have not been take terrorism seriously, this problem now become a major problem for the country, which heating at the core interest of the country. Now general people and civil society are thinking about the solution of the terrorism and other problems which threatening the internal security of the country and destroy the country’s image and impression outside the country. The people suggested for the political cooperation among the major political parties and governmental initiatives for the protection against terrorism, which increase the patriotism of the politicians.

1.2: Rationale of the Study

To ensure state’s internal and external security is the main responsibility of the state mechanism. When one part falls in stake, the country cannot go the right way. One the other hand, when the people of the administration do not take the threat seriously, then the responsibility goes to civil society and academicians to analyze the threat perspective and should find a tentative solution of the problem.

General people have a view about any kind of security or emergency situation, from where government and political parties can learn a lot to take decision and implement that policy. So general people’s view and ideas have an important role in national security and that thinking should be reaching to the public officials.

To return the misguided young generation to the right track is one of the major goals of the study on the current uprising terrorism. This study will give a light food for the brain to think how to save the country from a great catastrophic damage.

1.3: Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to analyze the current security threat of terrorism to the state. The other major objectives are………..

1. To create awareness among the local people of the Rampal upazila as well as all over the Bangladesh.

2. To examine the current militant activities in the name of Islam.

3. Try to identify the causes of terrorism in Bangladesh.

4. To identify the people who are engaged and involve in the current terrorism activities, especially in general and suicide bomb blasting.

5. To make the people conscious about the threat issue of terrorism.

6. To examine the uprising terrorism as a threat to the internal security of Bangladesh.

7. Try to find out some solutions against terrorism and uprising militancy.

8. Finally proposed some recommendations which will be helpful to overcome this crisis situation.

1.4: Review the Literature

Terrorism is a global problem in the present world system. The major challenges of terrorism has been facing by the international community after most dramatic destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001or the saddest 9/11. The 7/7 2005 event of London bombing has given new dimension of global terrorism, which has an impact all over the world. So, now terrorism threatening the whole world and intellectual community, security service agencies and government administration are hardly trying to identify the major causes of terrorism and its consequences also.

In the western world lots of research has been done on terrorism and its impact on national as global security. But in Bangladesh, the research on uprising terrorism, Islamic militancy and Islamic fundamentalism is very poor. As far I know, the research which has been done on terrorism in Bangladesh are only related with who are involved, what their purpose and why this terrorism going in Bangladesh.

We have read two articles on February 19, 2006’s Daily Star, titled “Terrorism and corruption: Crisis of Morality” by Professor Shahiduzzaman of International Relations, University of Dhaka and the other one “Terrorism in Bangladesh : How long to denial?” by Ekram kabir, journalist and researcher on security affairs. From the first article I have found the moral issues and the inner issues of the country and people, which lead the country to major threat like terrorism. The second one gives a brief history and various dimensions of terrorism in Bangladesh.

1.5: Map of the Rampal Upazila

Rampal is located at 22°34?00?N 89°39?50?E / 22.5667°N 89.6639°E / 22.5667; 89.6639 . It has 33119 units of house hold and total area 335.46 km².

1.6: Demographics of Rampal Upazila

As of the 1991 Bangladesh census, Rampal has a population of 167070. Males constitute are 50.83% of the population, and females 49.17%. This Upazila’s eighteen up population is 93518. Rampal has an average literacy rate of 45.5% (7+ years), and the national average of 32.4% literate.

1.8: Operational Definition of Terrorism and Internal security

(a.) Terrorism:

The term “terrorism” comes from Latin terrere, “to frighten.” The terror cimbricus was a panic and state of emergency in Rome in response to the approach of warriors of the Cimbri tribe in 105BC. The French National Convention declared in September 1793 that “terror is the order of the day.” The period 1793-94 is referred to as the regime de la terreur (Reign of Terror). Maximilien Robespierre, a leader in the French revolution proclaimed in 1794 that, “Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible.”

The word “terrorism” is politically and emotionally charged,<href=”#cite_note-Hoffman-1998-p31-0″>[1] and this greatly compounds the difficulty of providing a precise definition.

A 2003 study by Jeffrey Record for the US Army quoted a source (Schmid and Jongman 1988) that counted 109 definitions of terrorism that covered a total of 22 different definitional elements. Record continues “Terrorism expert Walter Laqueur also has counted over 100 definitions and concludes that the ‘only general characteristic generally agreed upon is that terrorism involves violence and the threat of violence.’ Yet terrorism is hardly the only enterprise involving violence and the threat of violence. So does war, coercive diplomacy, and bar room brawls.” Such an understanding does leave open the option for some governments to be considered terrorist organizations as well.

Terrorism is a very complex phenomenon. It has almost as many views as there are scholars. More than hundred definitions have been develop by academicians political organizations and governmental agencies, but none has yet been accepted universally. This is, probably, because of the reason that terrorism is an extremely emotional issue and the person defining and describing is inadvertently inject his own value judgments in to the definition. Let us examine some definitions of terrorism.

“Terrorism is a brutal undeclared, clandestine and lethal form of unconventional warfare.”

“Terrorism interestingly is consistent with the essence of classical military strategy, the efficiencies use of force to achieve a desired policy.”

Yay Mallin was of the view that war is an armed conflict and armed conflict is the province of military. Terrorism is a form of armed conflict therefore it is in military sphere. Terrorism is a psychological warfare because it publicizes the terrorists political cause, demonstrates it capabilities, disheartens, enemy, and discourages allies. It does material and economic damage. These are military functions. It is therefore warfare.

He defined terrorism as “the threat of violence or an act or series of acts of violence affected through surreptious means by an individual, an organization or a people to further his or their political goals and, therefore, a form of military activity.”

“Terrorism means the use of or threat of violence that is limited in its physical destructiveness but high in psychological impact that it creates fear and shock. Terrorism’s effectiveness is political than military.”

“Terrorism is the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.”

The Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) of USA defines terrorism as “ the unlawful use of force and violence against person or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectivities.” And it is commonly saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

(a.) Internal Security:

Security means to free from danger, anxiety and fear. The term security is based upon two major assumption: one most threats to a state’s security arise from outside its border and two that these threats are primarily in military nature.

Generally security indicates a state’s ability toprotect its internal values from externalthreats. These two important view of security: one is traditional border based military security and the other is nontraditional or modern security based on internal management of the state and environmental protection. Another form of security is ‘human security’ which indicates the ensuring of the human being right.

Internal security means to protect the rights and privileges of the citizen in a proper way. Internal security of state ensures—-

1. The right to live without fear and insecurity

2. The freedom of speech

3. The freedom of press and consciousness

4. The right to organization

5. The freedom of movement of the people

6. The right to economic development

7. The to exercise the own religion etc

But since the bomb blasts started in Bangladesh, state’s internal security becoming vulnerable day by day. Grenade attack upon the British High Commissioner in Sylhet, Grenade attack on the meeting of Awami League, bomb blasts in the cultural program of Udecy in Jessore and in the boishakhi cultural program in the Ramana Batomul, killing of journalists and university teachers, serial bomb blasts across the country and the suicide bombing upon judges proves that the internal security of Bangladesh is the great danger. The uprising militancy in Bangladesh is threatening very much the internal security of Bangladesh. Major recent security threats to Bangladesh are given in the following table.

Chapter – 2

Research Methodology

2.1: Methodology:

As because of its’ complex nature of social fact, to study the researcher finds it suitable to use qualitative methodology intending explanation of the very process through interpretation. Intensive case study method has been used here. We have conducted the respondents in dialogue or discussion. It also includes——

· Own experience about the terrorism and its activities

· Reflexive questioning for sharing about the social phenomena

· Further questioning one’s position to understand in details.

Own experience have been collected to get actual information of his/her eyewitness of the terrorist activities or the sufferers. So what s/he thinks on says can be judgment by this information. During the conversation with a respondent the researcher is very much conscious and tricky to question one thing in different way relating different premises, which is called reflexive questioning. It ensure more reliability as well as validity of data. When a respondent is exposing his/her position about a particular issue, the researcher just causally makes argument opposing to know it in details.

2.2: Sampling:

For this study, samples are selected through snowballing. Aiming at secure probability sampling the researcher experiences huge difficulties at the very beginning. After collecting the research and recent geographical and area map, the researcher is using the purposing sampling for the research. But the required criteria of samples are almost impossible to get through this process. Because almost all respondent told same things. Several times they try to hide the full situation. That is how intensive ten study of respondents shown which comprises of teacher, students, general people, govt. employee, Mosque Imam, housewife.

Chapter – 3

3.1: Development of Terrorism in Bangladesh

The cause of violence and terrorism in Bangladesh is range from economic factors to structural and political variables. The recent grenade attack, serial of bomb attacks, suicide bombing and series of deaths across Bangladesh has contributed to the already deteriorating security of Bangladesh. Bomb blasts and the raise of religious militants have again proved that human security and internal security of Bangladesh is at stake. The contemporary label of “terrorist” is highly pejorative; it is a badge which denotes a lack of legitimacy and morality. The application “terrorist” is therefore always deliberately disputed. Attempts at defining the concept invariably arouse debate because rival definitions may be employed with a view to including the actions of certain parties, and excluding others. Thus, each party might still subjectively claim a legitimate basis for employing violence in pursuit of their own political cause or aim

3.2: Causes of terrorism in Bangladesh

1. Population increasing and decreasing / shrinking the use of land property.

2. Corruption practices in political culture of Bangladesh.

3. Total corruption and no effective punitive actions.

4. Breakdown of moral order / morality.

5. Political leader’s morality crisis.

6. Jihadists aim to fight to the current social order and to establish an Islamic society.

7. Ideological variation among the political groups.

8. Frustration and insecurity.

9. Corruption based politics, economics and administration.

10. Lost of all democratic essence and positive meaning.

11. Rewarding corrupted people in stead of punishment

12. Religion-based politics and

13. Religious militancy based terrorism.

3.3: Expanding and Dimension of Terrorism in Bangladesh

Elements of terrorism were slowly spreading their roots in the country for a long time. Criminal underworld and CHT situations started terrorism in Bangladesh. So-called leftists in the southwestern Bangladesh kidnapping and killing people, which is nothing less than terrorism. Since 1999 the Islamic militants have give a new dimension of terrorism in Bangladesh.

Terrorism in Bangladesh may be a recent phenomenon but the speed and spread of its effective coverage over the past decade has left experts in Bangladesh aghast with consternation. Over the past six years, terrorism in Bangladesh displayed certain patterns and underwent several points of graduation to higher degree in terms of lethality and public concern, clarity of political goals of the terrorists and of their motivation and commitment.

Combating terrorism has two facets: antiterrorism (defensive measures) and counterterrorism (offensive measures), antiterrorism is defined as “defensive measures used to reduce the vulnerability of the life of individuals and of property to terrorist acts, to include limited response and containment by local military forces.” Counterterrorism involves those offensive measures taken to prevent, deter and respond to terrorism.

Some experts suggest, total mobilization of the whole society for preventing terrorism. Assuming that prevailing terrorism is largely home grown, there should not be any let up in monitoring possibilities of an oncoming terrorist act. Also there cannot be any substitute for revamping the capacity of the law enforcing agencies for combating terrorism.

Awareness building, mobilisation of public opinion and providing intellectual input towards developing a strategy for countering terrorism in Bangladesh are sine qua non for developing a comprehensive strategy of combating terrorism. With this end in view, Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) organised a seminar on 23-24 December 2006 with the participation of scholars, academicians, security experts and practitioners, and media members from across the country to examine the problem of religious militancy and leftist extremism to develop a strategy to counter-terrorism in Bangladesh.

Shrinking of democratic space not only promotes terrorism, it reduces space for anti-terrorism discourse. The present volume with a comprehensive coverage of diverse issues provides a refreshing departure. It is rich in policy relevant inputs. It also opens up discursive fronts for future dialogue and intensive planning. The value of the present work lies precisely there.

3.4: Top terrorist Groups in Bangladesh:

In 2001, a report of the Daily Sangbad on July 02 said that prior to national election; Dhaka City was the formation of four terrorist outfits. They are headed by—–

Name of the Gang Head of the Gang
Back Panther Kala Jahangir
Tiger Subrata Bain
Python Leather Liton
Cobra Pichchi Hannan

They all are the underworld terrorists.

Another terrorist groups of Bangladesh is following—–

1. Sarbohara

They have many subgroups named—-

a. Purbo-Bangla Communist Party (ML-Janajudhho )

b. Purbo-Bangla Communist Party

c. Purbo-Bangla Maoist Communist Party

d. New Biploby Communist Party

e. Biplobi Communist Party

f. Dakkhin Bangler Chinnomul Communist Party and

g. Jihadi Party

2. Santi Bahiny (Chittagong Hill Tracts)

3. Islamic Militancy

Their including—–

a. Harkat-ul-Jehad-Al-Islami (HuJI)

b. Mujaheedin Bahini

c. Al-Hiqma

d. Jagrata Muslim Janata

e. Jamyatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB)

f. Laden Bahini

g. Hizbut Tahri and Hizbut Tawhid

h. Allar Dal

3.4: Islam-o-Muslim and the Resilience of Terrorism in Bangladesh

After a relatively long period of calm, Islamist militancy in Bangladesh is showing new signs of life, even in the face of continuous crackdowns on terrorist infrastructure and activity by counterterrorism forces in the country.

Security officials have long established that many of the outlawed terrorist groups have been trying to regroup and reorganize after lying low (mostly in northwestern and southwestern Bangladesh) after a state of emergency was declared in January 2007. In June 2008, reports came quickly of the reemergence of terrorist groups such as Jama’at ul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), Allahr Dal, Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HuJI) and Hizb-ut Towhid (HuT). The revival was especially strong in the southwestern districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Magura, Chuadanga, Jessore, and Satkhira. Intelligence sources revealed that all these groups have maintained close operational ties and carried out terrorist operations on Bangladeshi soil. One estimate suggested there were about 12,000 cadres actively operating in the country, mostly madrassa (Islamic seminary) teachers, students and clerics of mosques (Daily Star [Dhaka], June 12, 2008). In April of this year, Bangladesh intelligence agencies declared that the Islamist terrorist groups are reorganizing with the aim of making a deadly comeback (Daily Star, April 29).

A mid-June report based on the confessional statement of a JMB terrorist shed some light on this resilient outfit. According to the report, JMB operatives are still using different border routes in Chapai Nawabganj and Jessore to smuggle in bomb-making materials and small arms from neighboring India despite being weakened by the government crackdown (Daily Star, June 22). The militant also confessed that members of the JMB central committee are trying to keep the organization afloat in Dhaka and other divisional capitals.

The Emergence of Islam-o-Muslim

In the midst of this evolving terrorist scenario in Bangladesh, a new jihadi outfit has emerged under the name of Islam-o-Muslim (IoM). The existence of IoM, a hitherto unknown group that security forces believe is a dissident breakaway faction of JMB, came to light when the Detective Branch (DB) of the Bangladesh police apprehended JMB terrorist Mustafizur Rahman (a.k.a Montu) in Dhaka’s Fakirerpol district on June 28, followed by the June 30 arrest of another JMB terrorist from the Gazipur district, Abdur Rahim (a.k.a Shahadat Hossain), who claimed to be the chief of IoM. Security forces also apprehended a pair of IoM area commanders identified as Sajedur Rahman (a.k.a Hanif) and Jalal Uddin (, July 3; New Nation [Dhaka], July 3). On July 6, a joint team of police and paramilitary personnel from the Bangladesh Rifles arrested senior IoM operative Selim (a.k.a Saifullah), the IoM second-in-command and military affairs commander in Chapai Nawabganj (, July 8; Daily Star, July 8).

After this string of arrests, the elite counterterrorist Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) claimed they had foiled IoM’s attempt to expand its activities by arresting many of its top leaders in a stepped-up crackdown on the terrorist infrastructure in Bangladesh. After extensive investigation, Bangladesh police have now confirmed that at least four JMB suspects arrested on earlier occasions in various parts of Chapai Nawabganj were actually IoM members. These suspects were identified as Abdul Mumin, Abdur Raqib, Rabiul Islam and Abdul Munib.

The interrogations of Abdur Rahim and other suspects revealed that IoM was formed in April 2009 to dominate the northwestern part of Bangladesh. With around 10 to 15 Ehsar (full-time) members and many Gayeri Ehsar (part-time) activists, IoM reportedly tried to expand in Rajshai division (bordering India’s West Bengal State) to establish a free zone consisting of the Gomastapur, Shibganj and Bholahat portions of the Chapai Nawabganj frontier district, Bagmara of the Rajshahi district and Raninagar and Atrai of the Naogaon district.

The arrest of Abdur Rahim and Sajedur Rahman, both former members of the JMB’s Majlis-e-Shura (Council of Advisors), brought this new outfit to the fore of the ever-expanding Islamist landscape in Bangladesh. Abdur Rahim, an alumnus of Islami Chhatra Shibir (the student wing of Jamaat-i-Islami Bangladesh), joined JMB in 2002. He was appointed chief of the Bagmara sub-district initially and was actively involved in JMB’s violent activities targeting left-wing Sarbahara activists in Rajshahi district. However Rahim, a close associate of Siddiqul Islam (a.k.a Bangla Bhai, leader of the radical Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh – JMJB), fled to India after the countrywide crackdowns on JMB’s top leadership following the serial bomb blasts in August 2005 (Daily Star, July 7). Rahim reportedly worked for JMB’s cause in India by raising funds and new recruits in and around the Murshidabad, Nadia and Malda districts of India’s West Bengal state. After his return to Bangladesh early this year, Rahim formed IoM due to the internal feud growing within the ranks of the JMB, primarily over financial and ideological matters.

Unlike JMB, which used various terror tactics in the country ranging from suicide attacks to planting bombs and explosives, the IoM aims to wage jihad with small arms, focusing on weapons and ammunition manufacturing in their hideouts. Police seized shotguns, bullet-making materials, and books on jihad from all the IoM cadres they have arrested so far. Both Abdur Rahim and Selim vehemently opposed many of the JMB’s activities, especially bomb blasts. Instead they have chosen assassination-style killings with small arms as their main tactic (Daily Star, July 19).

IoM has conducted several meetings of their top leaders at Raghunathpur and Ranihati villages in Shibganj sub-district. Abdur Rahim was in charge of recruiting new IoM members from active as well as inactive members of JMB in Chapai Nawabganj, Rajshahi and Naogaon districts. Significantly, the JMB is reported to have planned a meeting in the village of Kansat in April. Three years ago, hundreds of JMB cadres took part in the Kansat Movement, a peasant revolt sparked by alleged irregularities in the Rural Electricity Board and irregular power supplies. [1] JMB members decided to take part in the movement primarily because of its anti-Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) agenda, which gave them the opportunity to target government infrastructure and property (Daily Star, June 22).

The Jama’at ul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB)

When JMB’s top leadership was put on trial in March 2007, a new six-member central committee took shape with Maulana Sayedur Rahman Jaffar as the acting chief of the group. The other five members were identified by intelligence agencies as Assaduallah Arif, Tasleem, Faruq, Syed and Mahfuz (Jaijaidin [Dhaka], March 3, 2007; see also Terrorism Focus, March 27, 2007). Since that time Maulana Sayedur Rahman is believed to be heading the JMB in Bangladesh while operating from his home in the Mirpur locality of Dhaka.

Most of the second-rung JMB leaders went into hiding after the Bangladesh government’s proclamation of emergency and withdrew further following the executions of senior JMB leadership in March 2007. A similar case is that of Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HuJI), whose cadres also went into hibernation soon after the countrywide crackdown on the HuJI leadership.

The JMB along with other terrorist groups wants to establish a shari’a-based Islamic state in Bangladesh. The outfit perpetrated a series of deadly bombings in market places and court premises in 2005. The counterterrorist RAB claims to have arrested nearly 44 JMB operatives duringthelastsixmonths(DailyStar,July19).

Most of the Bangladesh-based terrorist outfits have well-nourished transnational linkages that reach as far as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Myanmar. Bangladesh police recently arrested a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative, Mufti Obaidullah (a.k.a Abu Zafa), who has been working under LeT leader Amir Reza and LeT operative Khurram Khoiyam in Pakistan and Daowd Ibrahim in Dubai. Obaidullah, originally from India’s West Bengal, reportedly told his interrogators that his task was to organize jihad in Bangladesh in cooperation with HuJi andJMBoperatives.

Obaidullah has close ties with Mufti Abdur Rauf of the HuJI and JMB’s Hasanuzzaman Hasan, who was arrested by police on July 17 (Independent, July 20; New Nation [Dhaka], July20).

Within the last couple of months, counterterrorist forces have managed to arrest JMB’s IT chief Emranul Haque Rajib and top explosives expert Jahedul Islam Sumon (a.k.a Bomb Mizan), both from the Dhaka area. The explosives expert reportedly revealed during interrogation that JMB has close operational ties with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a militant movement drawn from Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Islam Sumon told his interrogators that the RSO had been giving terrorist training to various Islamic militants in Bangladesh since the 1980s and that he and other JMB operatives had been trained by RSO weapons experts at a camp near the Myanmar border. JMB reciprocated by teaching the Rohingyas how to make and detonate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) (, May 19).

3.5: Terrorism and the Divisive Polity of Bangladesh

Since the horrific and most unfortunate August 21 bombings in Dhaka in an Awami League rally killing several people and seriously injuring several party workers and more than a dozen policemen in charge of the personal security of Sheikh Hasina,amateur analysts and professional “experts” have come up with their versions of the story. Some have found out “concrete evidence” of the involvements of members of the ruling coalition under Khaleda Zia in these ghastly attacks. While Sheikh Hasina, the leading proponent of this theory, has even portrayed the Prime Minister as a “murderer”, some Bangladeshi analysts have come up with the “Indian involvement theory” in a recent posting in the web.

The way a section of the press, politicians and intellectuals have been trying to prove the involvement of the ruling coalition, India, Pakistan, CIA, Maoist insurgents and others in the bombing is not going to help Bangladesh in the short- and long-run at all.

It is very disappointing that instead of uniting to weed out terror from Bangladesh, our politicians, journalists and intellectuals both within and outside the country have not yet shown the maturity, civility and decency to condemn terrorism with objectivity, integrity and honesty. They, instead, have been showing their narrow, tribal/peasant rusticity and bias in explaining the attacks with a view to gaining some political leverage. They have unfortunately failed to realise that the reactionary forces behind these heinous attacks will be more than happy to see whatever is left of liberal democratic, secular and patriotic forces in the country, constantly fighting among themselves instead of trying to find out the real culprits.

The perpetual polarization between the Awami League and BNP, and between the so-called patriots and traitors, will only bring more disasters finally turning the “dysfunctional” state into anarchy. It is high time that the civil society comes out of their Awami-BNP cocoons to mobilize mass support against terror, Khaleda-Hasina together, for the sake of the country. One may only guess if and when the terrorists will again hit the divided polity. And the next time leaders from the ruling party may fall prey to such attacks. So, both the BNP and its “Islamic” allies should also stop the blaming game with a view to fighting terror. Both the ruling coalition and the opposition have the responsibility to find out the real terrorists and their motives.

It is, however, very pertinent that we find out the real causes as to why terrorism is gaining ground in Bangladesh. We need not go that far to find out the real factors behind these acts. What history has taught us (and we always forget the lesson) that terrorism is a by-product of a section of the population of a given country turning desperate to change the status quo when that section finds all other peaceful means ineffective. Terrorists also hit with a view to establishing themselves as the alternative to the existing political parties and groups to deliver the promised goods and services for the benefit of the majority. The way Hitler and Mussolini succeeded in capturing power through terror, eventually with mass support, should be an eye-opener for both the ruling parties and their opposition.

Have they succeeded in delivering the promised goods and services to the average Bangladeshis in the last thirty-odd years? is the question. The never-ending process of the rich getting richer by defrauding banks, depriving workers their due and by plundering the meagre resources of the country as ministers, bureaucrats and NGO operators (“smooth operators”?) is the mother of all terror in Bangladesh. Unless we realise that bank defaulters, corrupt governments, bureaucrats and military, industrialists, traders, NGO operators have been resorting to terror by plundering and depriving the state and people of their due, the recent bombings are just the beginnings of the end of the status quo.

One should not be that surprised that sections of the frustrated, unemployed youth should be attracted to terror- “Islamic” or the neo-fascist ones- as it has been happening elsewhere in the Third World. Any attempt to portray terror as merely a political act of desperation or as a by-product of some weird ideology (as George Bush and his team have been doing since 9/11), without understanding the real economic issues behind it, will remain counter-productive, hence useless.

Now, let us evaluate what local and international “experts” and amateur analysts have so far analysed about the Dhaka bombing of August 21. Their collective analyses have so far identified six possible sources of terror in Bangladesh:

1) The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islamiya;

2) A section of the ambitious military officers in Bangladesh armed forces having extreme ideological commitment to “Islamic fundamentalism”;

3) The underground Maoist rebels;

4) The RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) of India;

5) The ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) of Pakistan;

6) The ruling BNP-Islamist Coalition of Bangladesh.

None of the analysts have given any thought over the economic and class dimensions of the problem. Another aspect of terror is its positive correlation with the anger and frustration of the perpetrators, who are motivated to terrorizing to register their anger and hatred towards their perceived enemies. The analysts so far have failed to identify these socio-economic and psychological dimensions of terror. To them, the problem is simply a political/ideological one. And this sort of analysis is the biggest problem towards understanding terror, both global and regional.

However, the organized and professional nature of the grenade attacks on the Awami League rally, most definitely to eliminate Sheikh Hasina physically, by no stretch of the imagination were acts of mindless group of terrorists adopting terror just for the sake of it as fanatics or anarchists would do. The August 21 bombing and the scores of previous attacks which killed and maimed innocent people in different parts of the country during the last eight years or so were organized acts of terror to discredit both the Awami League and BNP. Politically ambitious group of people must have been exploiting the socio-economic situation, using underdogs in the name of an ideology. The precision and professionalism of the killers, especially of the August 21st,are very ominous, indicative of a grand scheme of eventual takeover of the country by the group.

The oversimplified analyses, based on wild conjectures, subjectivity, prejudice and malice towards political adversaries, are problematic and unhelpful towards our understanding of the problem. The over-politicization of the attacks-both by the ruling and opposition parties- will not bring rich dividends but disaster for Bangladesh.

The one-point programme of the Awami League, to remove the BNP and Khaleda Zia from power, in the wake of the bombing is further divisive and would only benefit the terrorists. A divisive and sharply polarized polity would be the ideal breeding ground for more terror.

Now, to turn to the various theorists as to who were involved in the attacks, the most acceptable theory is that some shadowy Islamist group might have been involved in the attacks. However, one cannot be that precise about which group of “Islamic” terrorists are behind such attacks. It is difficult to accept some Indian analysts’ version of the story that some Jamaat-i-Islami leaders in Bangladesh having links with Al-Qaeda and/or some Rohingya or Assamese-Meghalaya Muslim separatist groups, said to have strong commitment to “Brihot” or greater Bangladesh, have been terrorizing Bangladesh. This group of terrorists, according to the theory, were trained and armed by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Chittagong Hill Tracts. The group, known as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islamiya, having 15,000 trained guerrillas, have links with Jamaat-i-Islami of Bangladesh, so goes the story.

Meanwhile, another Islamic group, Hikmatul Jihad (hitherto unheard of) claimed its involvement in the recent attacks on Sheikh Hasina through an email to the editor of a Bengali daily in Dhaka. The police are said to have traced the sender of the email and have already arrested and interrogated the suspect, an unemployed Hindu youth from Dhaka. If finally something substantial emerges out of these interrogations of Partha, who had his university education in India, that would give an altogether new dimension to the story. Those who believe in Indian hands in terrorist acts in Bangladesh would go farther in their renunciation of the country.

There is no denying of the fact that India has hardly been benevolent and generous towards its immediate neighbors in the last fifty odd years. It is also true that India is possibly the only country in the world besides Israel having bad to very bad relationship with all its immediate neighbors, including Bangladesh. This, however, does not justify someone’s finger pointing at India for the recent bombings in Dhaka unless one has concrete evidence to prove so.

Some Indian analysts as well as their Bangladeshi counterparts are responsible for this sort of oversimplifications. Jaideep Saikia in his recent research paper on Islamic resurgence in eastern India has unnecessarily provoked some Bangladeshi analysts. Saikia has not only questioned the loyalty of Indian Muslims living in Assam, Meghalaya and adjoining states but has also inadvertently provoked some Bangladeshi scholars. Saikia has cited Mujibur Rahman Khan’s book, “Eastern Pakistan: Its Population, Delimitation and Economics”, published by the East Pakistan Renaissance Society from Calcutta in 1944 where the author wanted the incorporation of Assam into Eastern Pakistan. Saikia has mistakenly taken Mujibur Rahman Khan (a journalist and Muslim League leader in the 1940s) to be Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and this has created some confusion and controversy among several Bangladeshi scholars. Nothing could be more amateurish than tracing Islamic revival and terror in eastern India and Bangladesh to the politics of the 1940s.

From the professional nature of the grenade attacks in broad daylight it appears that these terrorists are trained military personnel. This has tempted some analysts to assume that a section of the Bangladesh armed forces under the influence of Al-Qaeda or Jamaat-i-Islami (amateur analysts often confuse the two) wanted to kill Sheikh Hasina with a view to creating chaos and a political vacuum, eventually to install an Islamic military government in the country. This is a bit far fetched as neither the US nor the average Bangladeshis would welcome a military governemnt let alone a pro-Taliban regime in Bangladesh.

The weak and divided remnants of the Maoist groups of the 1970s are the least likely perpetrators of the August 21st carnage. No body has yet traced any such professionally trained Maoist guerrilla group in the region. Even the Nepalese Maoists have recently been forced to fight a defensive war and are retreating.

Only extremely immoderate and politically biased people would point finger at the ruling coalition for the attacks on Sheikh Hasina. While the BNP-led coalition has two more years to rule (ruling parties have all the due and undue privileges, and opportunities in countries like Bangladesh), why on earth it would jeopardise its own immediate future by physically eliminating the leader of the opposition is beyond reason. The death of Hasina would have signalled the death of Awami League as a party as there are no acceptable successors to the matriarch (similar is the situation in BNP), but Hasina’s violent death would have also brought a mass upsurge, big enough to topple the BNP governemnt.

As India card is not worth playing here to link RAW or some other agencies with the terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, only die-hard fanatics and amateurs would suspect Pakistan to be the culprit in this regard. As India has absolutely nothing to gain by destroying the Awami League (widely known as “pro-Indian”), Pakistan hardly bothers about Bangladesh and its internal problems as Pakistan has so many of its own.

In sum, as there is no easy answer to the question as to who bombed the Awami League rally to kill Sheikh Hasina, there is no easy solution to the problem of terrorism in Bangladesh and elsewhere. There are global as well as regional/local problems, grave enough to germinate terrorist cells and groups. Only the rule of law and equi-distribution of wealth and opportunities under a relatively corruption free system can ensure stability and peace. Terrorism is not a disease but a symptom while corruption and misrule are manifestations of the virus, which breeds terrorism.


Theory of Terrorism

4.1: The Political Theory of Anarchism as a Theory of Terrorism

Terrorism is most definitely not a form of governance, but anarchism is. Most anarchists reject terrorism in its vanguard varieties (for nationalist or religious purposes), but in a theoretical sense, anarchism justifies terrorism as a form of criminal action that attacks the values of an organized, complacent society. Anarchism is a theory of governance that rejects any form of central or external authority, preferring instead to replace it with alternative forms of organization such as shaming rituals for deviants, mutual assistance pacts between citizens, syndicalism (any non-authoritarian organizational structure that gives the greatest freedom to workers), iconoclasm (the destruction of cherished beliefs), libertarianism (a belief in absolute liberty), and plain old rugged individualism. Anarchism is often referred to as the nineteenth century roots of terrorism, the term first being introduced in 1840 by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. Anarchism defined is the rejection of the state, of any form of coercive government, of any form of domination and exploitation. It is the notion of free and equal access to all the world’s resources to enable positive freedom (freedom to) in place of negative freedom (freedom from, or the basis of most constitutional rights).

As a theory, anarchism holds a unique place in history because it was the first revolutionary movement to come up with systematic ideas about the purpose of agitation. You’ll recognize some of these ideas as terrorist tactics, but it’s important first to understand them in the context of anarchism. Proudhon contributed the idea of finding the “moment” as in when the moment is ripe for revolutionary action. Another anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, popularized the idea of “propaganda by deed” or letting your actions speak for themselves, which was a theory originally developed by Carlo Pisacane, an Italian revolutionary who argued that ideas spring from deeds and not the other way around. Over the years, this notion has evolved into a fairly competent philosophy of the bomb as part of a propaganda campaign to stimulate awareness and sympathy with the cause, and in this respect has been noted as a defining feature of terrorism (Georges-Abeyie & Hass 1982). Bakunin’s ideas strongly influenced anarchism because his concept of propaganda by deed also included a prohibition against large scale group action (it being better, he thought, for anarchist action to be individualized or done in small groups). Most anarchists operate on the principle of leaderless resistance, or acting on your own, with little knowledge or support of the groups they may belong to. Another anarchist, Sergei Nachaev, who was an associate of Bakunin, glorified the “merciless” aspect of destruction, but it was Bakunin who laid out the six steps necessary to destroy a social structure, as paraphrased below:

  • Kill the intelligensia (kill those who are intelligent and most energetic in society)
  • Kidnap the rich and powerful (those who will yield the biggest ransoms)
  • Infiltrate the politicians (to find out their secrets and discredit them)
  • Help the guilty criminals (to confuse society over justice and punishment)
  • Defend the loudmouths (those who make dangerous declarations)

Nurture the supporters (help fellow travelers who believe in societal destruction)

4.2: The Philosophical Theory of Religion as a Theory of Terrorism

More than one criminologist has pointed out that the disciplines of theology, religion, and philosophy have had important things to say about terrorism (Stitt 2003; Kraemer 2004). It is also a fact that about a quarter of all terrorist groups and about half of the most dangerous ones on earth are primarily motivated by religious concerns (Hoffman 1993). They believe that God not only approves of their action, but that God demands their action. Their cause is sacred, and consists of a combined sense of hope for the future and vengeance for the past. Of these two components, the backward-looking desire for vengeance may be the more important trigger for terrorism because the forward-looking component (called apocalyptic thinking, or eschatology) produces wild-eyed fanatics who are more a danger to themselves and their own people. The trick to successful use of terrorism in the name of religion rests upon convincing believers or convertees that a “neglected duty” exists in the fundamental, mainstream part of the religion. Religious terrorism is therefore, NOT about extremism, fanaticism, sects, or cults, but is instead all about a fundamentalist or militant interpretation of the basic tenets. Most religious traditions are filled with plenty of violent images at their core, and destruction or self-destruction is a central part of the logic behind religion-based terrorism (Juergensmeyer 2001). Evil is often defined as malignant narcissism from a theological point of view, and religion easily serves as moral cover for self-centered terrorists and psychopaths (Stitt 2003). Religion has always absorbed or absolved evil and guilt in what is called theodicy, or the study of how the existence of evil can be reconciled with a good and benevolent God. Most religions theodicize evil away as either: (1) a test of faith; (2) a product of free will; (3) part of God’s plan; or (4) functional to let people learn right from wrong; and terrorists easily make use of these established theodicies or critiques of them (Kraemer 2004).

To be sure, the usual pattern in religious-based terrorism is for a psychopathic, spiritual leader to arise that is regarded as somewhat eccentric at first (a tendency toward messianism). But then, as this leader develops their charisma, they tend to appear more and more mainstream and scholarly. They begin to mingle political with religious issues (a tendency toward theocracy), and little-known religious symbols or pieces of sacred text take on new significance. Quite often, these symbols are claimed to be an important part of that religion’s history that has somehow been neglected. The stage is then set for blaming somebody for the betrayal of this sacred heritage. First, the politicians in one’s own country are blamed, but soon a foreign influence, like secularization or modernization is blamed. Militant religions quickly move to blaming a foreign influence for at least three reasons: (1) it doesn’t serve the religion’s survival interests to blame a homeland; (2) it makes use of a long history of competition, animosity, and war between the world’s different religions; and (3) any blaming to be done must occur on the symbolic or cosmic level, which is to say that the enemy cannot have a face, but must be some impersonal, evil-like force or influence. Hence, the most specific enemy a militant religion can have is some global trend like secularization, modernization, or Westernization. The strength of fundamentalism is its ability to guarantee a radical change is coming without specifying exactly what it will look like. However, once a semi-vague enemy has been identified, the religious movement borrows the idea of “sovereignty” from the political realm and begins to see itself as the legitimate defender of the faith and legitimate restorer of dignity to the homeland. Most importantly, such “defenders” justify terrorist action in their accountability only to God, for it is God who has chosen them for this sacred mission in history.

4.3: Theories Unique to Domestic Terrorism

Freilich (2003) does a good job of reviewing the theories in this category, a relatively small area of research which tends to be studied within a field called the sociology of social movements. There are three groups of theories. The first is called economic/social integration theory, and it holds that high concentrations of farming, economic depression, and social disorganization are all related to high levels of domestic terrorist activity, militia movements in particular. In some varieties, it tends to be a kind of “farm crisis” or “agrarian reform” theory frequently used by those who study the Latin American context. The second theory is called resource mobilization theory, and it suggests that states which are more prosperous and socially integrated would tend to develop more domestic terrorist activity, on the basis that group competition for power and resources becomes intense. The third group of theories are called cultural theories, and propose that states experiencing greater cultural diversity and female empowerment along with increasing paramilitarism are likely to develop greater levels of domestic terrorist activity. In terms of research findings, more empirical support seems to exist for the third set of theories (at least according to Freilich 2003), although resource mobilization theory tends to dominate the theoretical literature (see Jenkins 1983 for the definitive list of resources such as money, organizational facilities, manpower, means of communication, legitimacy, loyalty, authority, moral commitment, and solidarity). Also in general, there is more empirical support for the idea that domestic terrorism more often plagues richer and affluent nations than poor ones.

Briefly, resource mobilization theory describes the process by which a group assembles material and non-material resources and places them under collective control for the explicit purpose of pursuing a group’s interests through collective action. Collecting resources must be accompanied by mobilization of resources. A group may prosper yet still not contend for power. Four central factors condition the process of mobilization: organization, leadership, political opportunity and the nature of political institutions. Strong horizontal links between members of a group provide the best organizational structure. Leaders who make themselves available to members and take an interest in members’ grievances tend to make the best leaders. Political opportunities refer to moments when the “time is ripe” for action, and groups which seize upon such opportunities tend to succeed. Political institutions refer to moments when the existing political parties are weak or fractured, and these are seen as times when domestic terrorist groups will best succeed by taking action.

4.4: Psychiatric Theories of Mental Illness as a theory of Terrorism

The leading exponent of the terrorist-as-mentally-ill approach is Jerrold Post (1984; 1990), who has gone on record saying that the most dangerous terrorist is likely to be a religious terrorist, and that all terrorists suffer from negative childhood experiences and a damaged sense of self. His analysis of the terrorist “mindset” (a word that substitutes for terrorist personality, and technically means a fixed mental attitude or inclination) draws upon a view of mental illness that compels, or forces, people to commit horrible acts. It should be noted that we know from criminal justice that this is not the only possible view on mental illness. More “crazy” people come into contact with the law through sheer folly and foolishness than a compulsion their mental illness made them have. Post (1990) makes a somewhat neo-Freudian distinction between terrorists who desire to “destroy the nation, or world, of their fathers” and those who desire to “carry on the mission, or world, of their fathers.” In short, it boils down to the Oedipus Complex, which is hating or loving your father, or at least the “world” they represent. There is actually some empirical support for this viewpoint. For example, when solitary terrorist offenders are studied, such as skyjackers and mail bombers, a severely dysfunctional relationship with their father is often found. The “anarchic-ideologue” terrorist, according to Post (1984) is rebelling against their father, and according to Kaplan (1981), has a pathological need to pursue absolute ends because of their damaged sense of self-worth. For a review of these and related theories, see Ruby (2002).

Another analysis is provided by Jessica Stern (1999) who attempts to gain psychological insight into the distinction between “doomsday” terrorists, who would use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that might end all life on earth, and “dangerous” terrorists, who would limit themselves to the conventional arsenal of terrorism. Stern’s concern is primarily with the counterproliferation of WMD, but cases studies of groups such as Aum Shinrikyo, the Tamil Tigers, Al-Qaida, and Hizballah show that terrorists most likely to use WMD tend to be afflicted with paranoia and megalomania. Of these two illnesses, the megalomania is more severe, and the paranoia is at such a moderate level that it enhances their intelligence and keeps them from becoming schizophrenics or sociopaths. Stern (1999) takes exception with arguments that terrorists suffer from any antisocial, psychopathic, or sociopathic disorder. Likewise, Victoroff (2005) says even though there is no such thing as a terrorism questionnaire (no one has validated a terrorism quotient or found a terrorist gene), it might be promising to measure their sense of oppression and feeling of subjugation, but one would have to account for the deep levels of fervor, hatred, bravado and other psychodynamic pressures at work.

Walter Laqueur (1999) offers the idea that we need to distinguish between terrorists who are “fanatics” and those who are “extremists.” The standard meaning of these terms is that fanatics are religious zealots and extremists are political zealots, but Laqueur (1999) strips away any religious connotation, and says that most terrorists are fanatics. The concept of fanaticism carries some implications of mental illness, but is not in itself a diagnostic category. Laqueur (1999) claims that fanaticism is characterized by excessive cruelty and sadism, but others (Taylor 1994) have pointed out that fanaticism is characterized by the following:

  • prejudice toward out-groups
  • authoritarianism
  • an unwillingness to compromise
  • a disdain for other alternative views
  • a tendency to see things in black and white
  • a rigidity of belief
  • a perception of the world that reflects a closed mind

To this, we might add the concept of Machiavellianism (Oots & Wiegele 1985), which refers to an extreme form of the psychological trait of manipulativeness. Terrorists are disposed to not only manipulate their victims, but the audience as well. Both the timing of a future event and the aftermath of a completed event are manipulated by terrorists. For example, the counterterrorism reaction by authorities is manipulated. The press and public are manipulated, with terrorists doing everything they can to work the media and obtain liberal press coverage. The fact that terrorism is aimed more at the audience than victim has provided numerous points of conjecture for researchers. It has been the source of most theoretical models of terrorist contagion, whereby different terrorist groups compete with one another for media attention, most theoretical models of copycat behavior, whereby different terrorist groups try to outdo a previous group with the harm inflicted, and more importantly, the contributions of biological and physiological researchers.

4.5: Sociological and Psychological Theories of Terrorism

Modern sociological perspectives are primarily concerned with the social construction of fear or panic, and how institutions and processes, especially the media, primary and secondary groups, maintain that expression of fear. It is important for students to be able to critically assess the social construction of terrorism and grasp sociological viewpoints, and as a good starting point, I would recommend Gibbs (1989) or any of several new books that critique the war on terrorism or look at it as mythology or dialogue. However, it is equally important for students to recognize that the social constructionist viewpoint is all about consequences, not causes. Labeling theory in criminology, for example, is a social constructionist viewpoint that, in my opinion, goes about reconnecting consequences with causes in a way that is less systematic than the way functionalists did it a long time ago. My own theory of terrorism (O’Connor 1994) makes use of a neo-functionalist framework to chart th