Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-The arrest of Bangladeshi construction workers in Singapore over jihadist terror links is a matter of grave concern for the impoverished south Asian nation, a Catholic bishop and a security analyst say.
All but one of the 27 men were members of a closed Islamic study group that allegedly subscribed to extremist teachings of radical ideologues like Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-Yemeni Islamic lecturer linked to al-Qaeda, said a statement from Singapore’s Home Ministry, reports the UCA News.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the men were planning to commit armed violence.
“They were plotting nefarious activities in Bangladesh and other countries, and not in Singapore,” the prime minister said on his Facebook page.
Twenty-six of the men have since been deported to Bangladesh while one remains in a Singapore prison for attempting to illegally leave the country after learning of the arrests of the other men, said the Home Ministry.
Bishop Gervas Rozario, chairman of Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, blamed the Bangladeshi government’s inadequate efforts to address militancy in the country.
“The government’s failure to contain militancy at home is the reason why Bangladeshi workers can get radicalized abroad. This trend is a threat to country’s long reputation as a moderate Muslim-majority nation,” said Bishop Rozario.
Singapore’s Home Ministry said the Bangladeshis were arrested between November 16 to December 1 for “supporting armed jihad ideology of terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda.”
The arrest and deportation of Bangladeshi workers put the country’s image at stake, says Brigadier General (Rtd) M. Sakhawat Hossain, a Dhaka-based security analyst.
“Radicalization is a global problem, but it is a matter of grave concern that Bangladeshi workers who went abroad legally got involved in radical activities,” Hossain said.
“Bangladeshi foreign missions don’t have the capacity to deal with such groups, but they need to work with security forces of host countries to keep track on migrant workers to avert a repeat of such cases,” he added.
Bangladesh has around eight million overseas workers, mostly in Middle East and Southeast Asian countries.
UNDER ‘CLOSE SUPERVISION’
Bangladesh’s police said they arrested 14 of the deported workers while 12 were released but were being kept under “close supervision.”
Monirul Islam, a joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters on January 21 that those arrested were not linked to al-Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, but to banned local militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).
“Most of them were followers of ABT chief Jasimuddin Rahmani,” Islam said.
Rahmani, a hardline cleric, was jailed for five years last month for instigating the murder of a secular blogger in 2013.
The moderate Sunni-majority nation has seen a sharp rise in Islamic fundamentalism since last year.
Four secular bloggers and a publisher have been killed while minority Muslim sects Shias and Ahamadis, as well as Christian clergy, have been allegedly targeted by local radical Islamic groups.