Bangladesh pays militants to turn over new leaf

DHAKA • Two Bangladeshi militants received cheques from the government yesterday in return for pledging to return to normal life, under a new scheme attempting to halt rising extremism.

Police said Abdul Hakim, 22, and Mahmudul Hasan, 17, were members of the banned Islamist outfit Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a cafe siege in July that left 20 mostly foreign hostages dead. Elite Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan said the pair had recently reached out to the police for assistance as part of a new scheme.

"They were involved with the organisational activities of JMB. They issued a plea to us through their parents to return to a normal life, therefore we facilitated their return," he said.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan handed the pair cheques each for 500,000 taka (S$8,700) in a ceremony in the northern district of Bogra and broadcast on television. The money is to help them restart their lives.

A string of attacks by militant groups targeting religious minorities, secular and liberal activists and foreigners has blighted Bangladesh over the last three years.

Security analyst Shahab Enam Khan applauded the scheme.

"It is good that the government is pursuing a liberal policy rather than only focusing on hard approaches," said Mr Khan, who teaches at Bangladesh's Jahangirnagar University.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'Bangladesh pays militants to turn over new leaf'. Print Edition | Subscribe