South and Southeast Asia not immune to the spread of terrorism
Inquiries in Myanmar’s Rakhine state by Amnesty International suggest that a Rohingya armed group may have been responsible for a massacre of Hindu women, men and children in Maungdaw township, as well as unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017.
Undoubtedly, accountability for and individual criminal responsibility for these atrocities as crucial as for the crimes carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine state and elsewhere in Myanmar.
There is little doubt that terrorist and militant groups have taken advantage of the disfranchised Rohingya, including recruiting them as cannon fodder for al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Karachi-based newspaper Ummat on September 28, 2001, Osama bin Laden said: “There are areas in all parts of the world where strong jihadi forces are present, from Indonesia to Algeria, from Kabul to Chechnya, from Bosnia to Sudan, and from Burma to Kashmir.”
In mentioning Burma (Myanmar), he may have been referring to a small group of Rohingya on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Today, it seems that many militant groups in this region have all been using a similar modus operandi of attacking police stations and posts, while ISIS-affiliated individuals and groups have been feverishly attacking police stations as far off as Kenya, Iraq and Libya.
The ISIS terror group’s official Al-Hayat Media Center released footage on January 26 calling on jihadis to destroy the kuffar (non-believers) in “Europe, America, Russia, Australia and elsewhere”. The English-language nasheed (religious hymn) in the video promises paradise in the afterlife for those who take up the cause.
Forced conversion of captive women into the jihadis’ Islamic ideologies and beliefs can be easily seen from the testimonies of Yazidi and other survivors.
The similarity of the modus operandi of these Islamist terrorists and criminals are not only of probative value in any criminal proceeding but also tend to show the influence of Islamic State’s ideology and methodology.
In an interview published in an issue of the Islamic State magazine Dabiq, Tamim Chowdhury (using the nom de guerre Abu Ibrahim Hanif), allegedly head of the organization’s Bangladesh wing, claimed that efforts to recruit in Bangladesh had gained “great momentum,” with many Muslims joining its ranks via a campaign in Bengali language on social media. He also claimed that jihad was planned in both the Bengal and other countries in the region.
Madrassas in Bangladesh have reportedly been hotbeds of Islamist militancy in the past and there have been claims this continues despite official crackdowns. One of the most significant links was unearthed in March 2009 when a madrassa in Bhola, southern Bangladesh, was raided by an anti-terrorist division, turning up 10 firearms, 2,500 rounds of ammunition and radical Islamic literature. Investigations revealed that the madrassa was funded by a British-registered charity Green Crescent, and that the founder, British citizen Dr Faisal Mostafa, had close links to the JMB and its current leader, Saidur Rahman.
Meanwhile, an Islamist politician, who was the founder of a madrassa in Malaysia, created untold havoc in a foreign sovereign independent member-state of the UN with his fellow terrorists associated with the Nusra Front.
South Asian and ASEAN states have all reaffirmed that terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that people responsible for committing terrorist acts, abuses or violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.
So, Asian states must continue to coordinate efforts with other sovereign independent nation-states to prevent and suppress terrorism.