04/22/2009, 00.00
BANGLADESH
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Islamic fundamentalists threaten UN agencies and Red Crescent

by William Gomes
Three intimidating letters have been sent to UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross. Some observers see this as a response to the UN's promise to help the government set up a court to try Islamic fundamentalists for war crimes.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) -The Islamic extremists of the group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) are threatening attacks against UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the Red Crescent, telling the three organizations to leave the district of Barisal in southern Bangladesh.

Three letters signed by the Islamic organization, which is prohibited by the government of Dhaka, were sent to the local headquarters of the international humanitarian agencies. The militants of the JMB are announcing reprisals if the recipients of their threats do not leave the area.

Mohammed Mahabur Rahman, a police official in Barisal, confirms the report for AsiaNews and says that the threats are to be taken seriously. Security has already been stepped up for the three humanitarian organizations, but Rahman explains that "the police by itself is not capable of combating Islamic terrorism," and says that for this reason he is convinced that "the police and the population must work together against Muslim fundamentalism."

For Rashid Khan Menon, a member of parliament from the Workers' Party, the threats against the three organizations "are connected to the UN's recent promise to help Bangladesh in proceedings against war crimes perpetrated in the country."

Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of international relations at the University of Dhaka, sees the intimidating letters as the sign of "a special agenda" on the part of fundamentalists against the presence of international organizations.

Recent security operations by the Rapid Action Battalion have led to the arrest of a number of militants of the JMB, and about a hundred people suspected of connections to the fundamentalist group. For professor Ahmed, the threats against the UN agencies have a twofold purpose: on the one hand, they send a signal to the authorities who want to take Islamic extremists to court for war crimes, on the other hand they seek to internationalize domestic affairs.

During the arrests of the mujahideen of the JMB, weapons, materials for making bombs, and computers were found, in addition to propaganda documents supporting jihad. In one flyer, the fundamentalists charge that "the media controlled by the Christians are making a false representation of the noble campaign of the mujahideen to liberate the country from the infidels"; they promise "to destroy all of the enemies of Allah," and "corrupt political leaders," and to "establish an Islamic state."

Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise in Bangladesh for years, and has included coordinated violent actions in multiple places in the country. Islamic extremist groups also have significant political influence.

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