Bangladeshis plotting terror attacks held under ISA

Members had target list, manuals for bombs, and had raised funds for attacks back home

Eight Bangladeshi workers who were planning to stage terror attacks back home have been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The men, aged between 26 and 34, called their group the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB) and intended to join terror group ISIS as foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

But as it was difficult to travel there, they focused on returning home to topple their government through violence, set up an Islamic State there, and bring it under the self-declared caliphate of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

They were detained last month, in the first ISA detentions involving a terror cell of foreign workers.

Late last year, a closed religious study group of 27 radicalised Bangladeshi workers who held extremist material were arrested under the ISA and deported. Their deportations were announced in January.

As for the eight, the ministry said yesterday its investigations found that the men had specifically identified possible targets for attack back home at the time of their arrest.

READY TO RESORT TO VIOLENCE

ISB poses a security concern to Singapore because of its support for ISIS and its readiness to resort to the use of violence overseas.The detained ISB members are still under investigation for their activities in Singapore. Rahman Mizanur has said he would carry out an attack anywhere if he was instructed by ISIS to do so, though there are no specific indications that Singapore had as yet been selected as a target.

THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS, in a statement.

They also had material on weapons and bomb-making, and raised funds to buy firearms for attacks in Bangladesh. A modest amount of money, which the authorities did not disclose, has also been seized.

The group's leader, Rahman Mizanur, 31, was an S-Pass holder in construction who set up ISB as a clandestine group in March this year.

He recruited the other seven, all work permit holders employed in the local construction and marine industries. They are: Mamun Leakot Ali, 29; Sohag Ibrahim, 27; Miah Rubel, 26; Zzaman Daulat, 34; Islam Shariful, 27; Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, 30; and Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader, 29.

According to ISB members, there are at least two more members in the group who are in Bangladesh.

"ISB poses a security concern to Singapore because of its support for ISIS and its readiness to resort to the use of violence overseas," the ministry said in a statement. "The detained ISB members are still under investigation for their activities in Singapore. Rahman Mizanur has said he would carry out an attack anywhere if he was instructed by ISIS to do so, though there are no specific indications that Singapore had as yet been selected as a target."

ISIS had, in social media posts and its magazine Dabiq last year, cited Singapore as a possible target.

Several of those detained may be liable for prosecution for terrorism financing, the ministry added.

The detentions come at a time of mounting concern that ISIS is gaining support in Bangladesh, which has recently seen radicals carrying out deadly attacks on minorities.

A document titled "We need for jihad fight" was recovered from Rahman Mizanur; it had a list of Bangladeshi government and military targets. Also on it were "media peoples" and "disbelievers".

He also possessed documents on weapons and bomb-making, as well as a significant amount of ISIS and Al-Qaeda radical material that he used to recruit ISB members in Singapore from January.

"The ISB members planned to recruit other Bangladeshi nationals working in Singapore to grow the group," the ministry said.

As part of this case, another five Bangladeshi workers were investigated under the ISA. Investigations showed they were not involved in ISB. But they "possessed and/or proliferated jihadi-related materials, or supported the use of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause". All five were deported.

Bangladesh High Commissioner to Singapore Mahbub Uz Zaman yesterday urged his countrymen here to report their peers who may be radicalised.

He told The Straits Times that his government has a "zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism" and is "fully committed to cooperate" with the local authorities.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder said the five Bangladeshis deported by Singapore several days ago were formally arrested in Dhaka yesterday.

"We are investigating any links (to terror groups). Investigations are going on," he said.

•Additional reporting by Aw Cheng Wei and Nirmala Ganapathy

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2016, with the headline 'Bangladeshis plotting terror attacks held under ISA'. Print Edition | Subscribe