Ji­hadist killers were rich, ed­u­cated

The Myanmar Times - - World -

WELL-ED­U­CATED and hail­ing from wealthy fam­i­lies, the gun­men who killed 20 hostages in a Bangladesh cafe defy the in­creas­ingly out­dated stereo­type of ji­hadists from poor back­grounds who have been rad­i­calised in madras­sas.

Six young men were shot dead on July 2 at the end of the all-night siege in a Dhaka cafe claimed by the Is­lamic State group.

One may have been an in­no­cent by­stander, but among the re­main­ing five are a grad­u­ate of Bangladesh’s lead­ing pri­vate univer­sity, an 18-yearold stu­dent at an elite school and the son of a rul­ing party of­fi­cial.

As ji­hadist groups such as IS fo­cus their re­cruit­ment ef­forts on dis­en­fran­chised mid­dle-class youth, govern­ment ef­forts to erad­i­cate ex­trem­ism be­come more com­pli­cated.

“They are all highly ed­u­cated young men and from well-off fam­i­lies,” Home Min­is­ter Asaduz­za­man Khan said. Asked why they would have be­come ji­hadists, Mr Khan said, “It has be­come a fash­ion.”

While the Bangladesh govern­ment has con­tin­ued to deny that the IS has a foothold in the coun­try, the group claimed the at­tack and its as­so­ci­ated news agency, Amaq, posted pic­tures of the five gun­men pos­ing with weapons.

Sim­i­larly in mil­i­tancy-rav­aged Pak­istan, the govern­ment de­nies that the in­ter­na­tional ji­hadist net­work has a for­mal pres­ence in the coun­try.

But a Pak­istani se­cu­rity of­fi­cial re­cently told AFP that au­thor­i­ties had busted sev­eral IS re­cruit­ment cells fo­cused on a sim­i­lar af­flu­ent de­mo­graphic.

Taj Hashmi, a Bangladeshi who teaches se­cu­rity stud­ies at the Austin Peay State Univer­sity in the United States, pointed out that many of the Saudi hi­jack­ers be­hind the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks were also from wealthy fam­i­lies.

But he says that mid­dle-class youth have been pro­vid­ing Is­lamist ter­ror groups with foot-sol­diers since long be­fore the emer­gence of IS.

“Marginalised and an­gry peo­ple from the higher ech­e­lons of so­ci­ety have been swelling the ranks of Is­lamist ter­ror­ists for the last 30-odd years,” he said.

Bangladeshi au­thor­i­ties have so far only re­leased code names of the cafe as­sailants af­ter in­ter­ro­gat­ing a gun­man who was cap­tured alive, but they have re­leased pho­tos of their blood­ied corpses.

Friends of one con­firmed his iden­tity as 22-year-old Ni­bras Is­lam who had been study­ing at the Malaysian cam­pus of Aus­tralia’s Monash Univer­sity be­fore go­ing miss­ing in Jan­uary.

Af­ter leav­ing school, Mr Ni­bras went to North South Univer­sity (NSU), a pri­vate univer­sity which came to promi­nence when one for­mer stu­dent tried to bomb the Fed­eral Re­serve Bank in New York in 2012.

In early 2013, seven NSU stu­dents hacked athe­ist blog­ger Ahmed Ra­jib Haider to death, kick­start­ing a cam­paign of mur­ders of sec­u­lar ac­tivists. At their trial, pros­e­cu­tors said the stu­dents had been rad­i­calised through the in­ter­net.

An­other of the cafe at­tack­ers was

iden­ti­fied by mul­ti­ple sources as Mir Saameh Mubasheer, who was due to sit his A-lev­els at Scholas­tica, an elite English lan­guage school, but dis­ap­peared in Fe­bru­ary.

His fa­ther Mir Hayat Kabir told the Prothom Alo daily that he had feared his son, who was 18, had been brain­washed.

“I felt in my heart that he was un­der some­one’s spell. We were good par­ents yet they took him away from our home,” he said.

Yet an­other of the at­tack­ers was iden­ti­fied as Ro­han Im­tiaz who also re­port­edly stud­ied at Monash in Malaysia af­ter leav­ing Scholas­tica where his mother teaches.

His fa­ther, Im­tiaz Khan Babul, is a for­mer youth af­fairs sec­re­tary of the Dhaka wing of the rul­ing Awami League. He filed a miss­ing per­son’s re­port for his son in Jan­uary.

Monash said it was aware of re­ports that some of the killers had stud­ied in Malaysia but added in a state­ment that it “has not re­ceived, nor seen, any of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion” of the iden­ti­ties.

Only one of the five at­tended a madrassa, the son of a labourer who has been named as Khairul Is­lam Payel.

Some an­a­lysts at­tribute the rise in ex­trem­ism in the South Asia re­gion to the preach­ings of rad­i­cal Sau­di­trained cler­ics in madras­sas, re­li­gious sem­i­nar­ies that are of­ten the only way for poorer fam­i­lies to give their chil­dren an ed­u­ca­tion.

But Mubashar Hasan, an ex­pert on po­lit­i­cal Is­lam at Dhaka’s Lib­eral Arts Univer­sity, de­scribed that nar­ra­tive as mis­lead­ing.

“Many so-called ex­perts of Bangladesh have been writ­ing and blam­ing only madras­sas for ter­ror­ism,” said Mr Hasan.

“Many for­eign gov­ern­ments and agen­cies have spent mil­lions in cash for projects on re­form­ing and mod­ernising madrassa ed­u­ca­tion ... What are [they] go­ing to re­form now? The lib­eral uni­ver­si­ties and English medium schools whose cur­ricu­lums are em­bed­ded on Western en­light­en­ment?” –

Photo: AFP

Three-year-old Shafir, whose fa­ther was killed in the at­tack on the cafe, rests his head on his un­cle’s shoul­der dur­ing a memo­rial ser­vice in Dhaka yes­ter­day.

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