• Monday, December 11, 2023

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New scheme pays Bangladeshi militants to return to normal life

Members of the Elite Rapid Action Battalion stand outside a suspect’s house in Dhaka, Bangladesh

By: Eastern Eye Staff

TWO Bangladeshi Islamist militants received cheques from the government on October 5 in return for pledging to return to normal life, under a new scheme attempting to halt rising extremism.

Police said Abdul Hakim, 22, and Mahmudul Hasan, 17, had been members of banned local Islamist outfit Jamaayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a cafe siege that left 20 mostly foreign hostages dead.

Elite Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan said the pair had recently reached out to police for assistance as part of a new scheme announced by the national police chief.

“They were involved with the organisational activities of JMB. They issued a plea to us through their parents to return to a normal life, therefore, we facilitated their return,” Khan told reporters.

Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan handed the pair cheques each for 500,000 taka (£5,000) to restart their lives in a ceremony in the northern district of Bogra and broadcast on television.

A string of attacks by Islamist groups targeting religious minorities, secular and liberal activists as well as foreigners have blighted Bangladesh over the last three years.

The government was left reeling after Islamist militants hacked to death and shot their hostages in a siege on an upmarket Dhaka cafe in July.

The Daesh (Islamic State) organisation claimed responsibility but prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government blamed the JMB.

Little is known about the two recruits, but Hakim told the ceremony he had chosen “a dark path when there was no aim in life and he had no wish to live”.

“We made a mistake. We don’t want anyone else to come to this path,” Hakim said.

Three siblings belonging to another banned outfit, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, also surrendered to police on October 3, authorities have said.

Security analyst Shahab Enam Khan applauded the scheme which comes after the government’s hardline crackdown on opposition activists that has seen thousands arrested and raised allegations of human rights abuses.

“It is good that the government is pursuing a liberal policy rather than only focusing on hard approaches,” Khan, who teaches at Bangladesh’s Jahangirnagar University, told reporters.

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