Origins, Evolution and Current Activities of Sunni Salafi Jihadist Groups in Bangladesh
Despite its global recognition as a moderate Muslim country, Bangladesh has been experiencing increasing bouts of religious fundamentalism and militant activities since 2005. This phenomenon is not altogether novel to the country. During the Liberation War of 1971, Bengali freedom fighters faced staunch opposition from the Pakistani armed forces as well as Islamist militias under the control of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist political party. Even after attaining its independence, Bangladesh has struggled to uphold the pillars of democracy and secularism due to political, social and religious drivers. Between January 2005 and June 2015, nearly 600 people have died in Islamic terrorist attacks in the country. These militant outfits either have close ties to or are part of Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State (ISIS). Despite such troubling signs and the fact that it is the fourth largest Muslim majority country in the world, Bangladesh has generally received little attention from academics of security studies. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the drivers and trends of Sunni Salafi jihadist groups operating in Bangladesh to ascertain the implications for counterterrorism activities. Political, social and religious interventions that go beyond the hard approach must be undertaken to control the mounting threat of Islamist terrorism to the security and stability of the nation.
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