Bangladesh tackles overseas funding of Islamic militancy

Government's steps are long overdue, says church official
Bangladesh tackles overseas funding of Islamic militancy

Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion personnel detain a suspected Islamist extremist after he surrendered in Ashulia, some 25 kms from Dhaka on July 16. Bangladesh is also putting all financial transactions in the country under their strict surveillance to inhibit militant fund transactions. (Photo by AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
Bangladesh
July 27, 2017
All financial transactions in Bangladesh will face strict government surveillance following concerns that some Middle Eastern NGOs have been funding Islamic militancy in the country.

The Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), and intelligence agencies have already put 17 non-governmental organizations under intense surveillance since June, local media has reported.

"We have been closely monitoring all their financial transactions and activities," Devprasad Debnath, BFIU's general manager told ucanews.com by phone.

The surveillance against the NGOs was put in place as the authorities found evidence of funding militancy and terrorism, he said.

"By the end of this year, we will submit a report to the NGO Affairs Bureau about them," said Debnath.

"If the report is negative, we will ask the bureau to revoke the registration of the NGOs and ban them from operating in the country," he said.

The accused NGOs include the Qatar Charitable Society, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Muslim Aid, the Islamic Relief Agency and the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society. The NGOs are allegedly linked to Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest radical Islamist political party.

Two of the accused NGOs — Muslim Aid and the Islamic Relief Agency — refused to comment when contacted by ucanews.com.

The government will move to bring all inbound overseas financial transactions under strict surveillance to prevent militant fund transactions, said Debnath in an earlier report in the Dhaka Tribune, an English daily.

The decision was reportedly made during a high-level meeting with Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and representatives of all law enforcement and intelligences agencies last month, Debnath said.

 

Rise in suspicious financial transactions

The BFIU reported an alarming rise in suspicious foreign financial transactions in Bangladesh in recent years. In 2013-14, there were 619 unusual transactions from overseas. The number was 175 in 2011-12.

Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Catholic bishops' Justice and Peace Commission, said the decision to monitor suspicious NGOs thought to be involved in unusual foreign money transactions should have come earlier.

"For years, some NGOs have sourced large amounts of foreign money but nobody knew how they spent it. Moreover, monitoring agencies allegedly released suspicious funds for a bribe," Nokrek told ucanews.com.

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"So, it's been going on for some time, but now law enforcers are forced to act over ongoing militancy threats," he said.

Nokrek, however offered words of caution.

"Any decision against those NGOs must be based on a proper probe and report, or it will throw good NGOs into a climate of fear and impact their welfare activities," he said.

 

Tackling militancy

Security analyst Major General (retired) Abdur Rashid said financial surveillance is major way to tackle militancy.

"Money is the biggest lifeline for militancy," Rashid, head of the Dhaka-based Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies told ucanews.com.  

"But there was a lack of monitoring on what these so-called Islamic charities did — was it for people's welfare or militant funding?" said Rashid.     

"As the reports shed light on their wrongdoings, there is no alternative than constant surveillance, and if they don't change they should be banned," he added.

Muslim-majority Bangladesh has seen a spike in deadly radicalism since 2013, that has seen some 50 people, including atheist bloggers, LGBT activists, liberal Muslims, religious minorities and foreigners, killed by Islamic militants.

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