A red alert has been sounded for security forces across Bangladesh in view of ‘specific intelligence’ pointing to efforts by the radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
The Hizb is also reportedly behind attempts to whip up student unrest after recent road accidents in Dhaka.
“The Hizb-ut-Tahrir has supporters among a section of junior officers in the military. We have reports indicating plans to use them to attack senior leaders,” a top Bangladesh intelligence official said.
The banned Hizb ut-Tahrir had stepped up its activities ahead of the recent general election when it cadres distributed leaflets, put up posters, and even organised a procession through Dhaka calling for the creation of a caliphate in Bangladesh.
In its posters and leaflets, the Hizb urged Bangladeshis to remove the Awami League government and unite under a ‘Khilafah Rashidah’.
The same call for a caliphate was made when around 30 Hizb ut-Tahrir activists led a flash procession through Shahbagh in Dhaka just before the elections.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir is trying to reorganize in secret (but) we are monitoring their present activities,” Mohibul Islam Khan, the deputy commissioner of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of police, said.
“Several members have already been arrested and we are making an effort to detain the organization’s top leadership based on information gleaned from members already in custody,” he added.
Who are Hizb ut-Tahrir?
Islamic thinker Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani formed Hizb ut-Tahrir in 1953 in Jerusalem, five years after the creation of Israel.
The organization’s Bangladesh chapter was launched in 2000 by Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaz under the leadership of Dr Syed Golam Maula, who was then a teacher at Dhaka University.
In September, 2008, Dr Syed Golam Maula was among 10 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders detained by Rajshahi police. They were released within two weeks after the group threatened to oust the army-backed caretaker government.
Intelligence officials say Hizb ut-Tahrir has links to other Islamist terror groups like Jama’atul Mujiheedin Bangladesh, Harkat ul-Jihad, and the Pakistan-based militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
In October 2009 the group was banned but it remains operational, silently picketing in front of mosques, recruiting meritorious students as its members and leaders, and maintaining a well-managed online presence.
Of the 650 Hizb ut-Tahrir leaders and members arrested since the ban, more than 450 have since been let out on bail and are now absconding.
According to data available with Bangladesh intelligence, different units of law enforcement have arrested more than 50 Hizb ut-Tahrir members between 2015 and now. Most of the detainees are students of various universities and colleges.
“Hizb ut-Tahrir is reorganizing with a long-term agenda,” an official of the CTTC said on condition of anonymity.
“They usually target meritorious students for recruitment, as having members in high government positions will help them in the long run,” the official further added.
Some of these students end up in the military and remain loyal to the Hizb.
Intelligence said the Hizb ut-Tahrir members are highly-educated and technologically-adept, which allows them to carry out their organizational activities , evading the security dragnet.