At least 393 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Bangladesh in the eleven years from 2005 to July 17 of 2016, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP).
Among the dead were 360 civilians and 33 security forces personnel. In addition, 243 terrorists were killed, Dhaka Tribune reports.
The data spanning 11 years show that the highest number of killings occurred in 2013, when 246 civilians and security forces (plus 133 terrorists) were killed.
Twenty five were killed in 2005, 6 in 2006, 1 in 2007, 1 in 2008, 3 in 2010, 1 in 2012, 38 in 2014, 25 in 2015 and 46 in 2016. The number of deaths has thus been increasing since 2013.
Militants are emerging from various classes of society. Earlier, it was thought that only Madarsa-based students were getting radicalized, but now militants are coming with higher educational backgrounds and high-profile families. Thus, militant groups are now capable of adopting and using modern, cutting-edge technologies to execute their grisly plans.
Monirul Islam, chief of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes unit of the Bangladesh police told Dhaka Tribune that militancy in Bangladesh is directly related to global Islamic radical movements.
But Prof Dr Zia Rahman, chairman of Dhaka University’s Criminology Department, suspected that the rise of militancy in Bangladesh since the 1990s is a result of internal politics. He attributes the recent surge to the controversial trial of Liberation war criminals, who are also Islamists.
Prof Zia said that the problem can be solved if gaps in the intelligence agencies are plugged and social ,familial and educational changes are brought about.
Data from the SATP shows that the first major militant attack in Bangladesh was reported in 1996, when Shanti Bahini rebels abducted and killed 30 Bengali settlers in Rangamati district on September 11. Since then, incidents have increased and so have fatalities.
Security analyst Maj Gen (Retd) Abdur Rashid said that the early militant attacks in Bangladesh were inspired by the Afghanistan-based outfit, Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HUJI). Later, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) came into being. As a result of the drives by law enforcers, the JMB split and the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), was born.
It was in 1991 that the police first arrested a group of HUJI members from Cox’s Bazar, although the outfit had first come to light at the Press Club on April 30, 1992, through a program it organized.
HUJI attacked a cultural program in Jessore in 1999, that left ten dead. On April 14, 2001, the outfit conducted another attack during the Bangla New Year celebrations. Its attacks continued until 2005.
In April, 2004, JMB came to light in Rajshahi. Its first action was a series of bomb blasts across Bangladesh on August 17, 2005. Members from JMB also attacked a court in Jhalakathi, killing two judges.
Although Bangladeshi authorities executed JMB’s top leaders, Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, and also also six others, the JMB is still active.
According to law enforcers, the outfit’s latest attacks were against Gulshan and Sholakia in July this year.
Ansarullah Bangla Team’s presence was discovered in 2013, after the death of blogger Rajeeb Haider. Investigators discovered later that the outfit was responsible for a number of killings of bloggers and publishers in Bangaldesh.
According to sources, the outfit’s initial outreach activity was pamphleteering, but now it is using blogs, websites, and Facebook accounts. Its members are in touch with each other through encrypted messaging applications such as Threema, which was used during the Gulshan attack.
Law enforcers suspect that local militants have links with international militant groups, such as the Islamic State (IS), though according to Asaduzzaman Miah, Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, this cannot be confirmed yet. Bangladeshi Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, insists that the militants are local and home-grown and do not have international ties.