A combination of mugshots of Bangladeshi construction and marine industry workers – Islam Shariful (top left to right), Mamun Leakot Ali, Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, Miah Rubel, Rahman Mizanur (bottom left to right), Sohag Ibrahim, Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader and Zaman Daulat – who were part of the Islamic State in Bangladesh and detained in Singapore in April are seen in this handout photo released on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Law enforcement agencies in Singapore and Bangladesh have arrested 13 militants, including eight members of the Islamic State, for plotting attacks and seeking new recruits, authorities said on Tuesday.
The eight men detained in Singapore were accused of being members of the IS who were plotting terror attacks back home as part of efforts to overthrow the Bangladesh government, the home ministry said
The construction and marine workers were arrested last month under the city-state’s tough Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial in cases where public safety is threatened.
Five other Bangladeshi workers were investigated under the Internal Security Act for alleged links to the Singapore-recruited group and deported for supporting the use of violence for a religious cause and possession of jihad-related materials, the home ministry said.
Following their deportation, officers from Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested the five men in Banasree district of the Bangladeshi capital and seized jihadi materials from them on Tuesday.
“They are Islamist militants who have been sent back from Singapore recently,” police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder said, adding that Singapore authorities had informed Bangladesh police about the five.
The head of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, Monirul Islam, told reporters: “Singapore has accused them of inviting people to (engage in) extremism.”
Singapore’s home ministry said the eight suspects had intended to join the IS in Iraq and Syria as foreign fighters but discovered it would be difficult to make their way there. The group then focussed on returning to Bangladesh, it said.
They made plans to “overthrow the democratically elected government through the use of force, establish an Islamic State in Bangladesh and bring it under ISIS’ self-declared caliphate”, the ministry said.
“The group had also raised monies to purchase firearms to carry out their planned terror attacks in Bangladesh. The money has since been seized,” it said.
The investigation in Singapore revealed documents containing possible targets in Bangladesh and a list of government and military officials. The home ministry said the group’s suspected leader, Rahman Mizanur, possessed guides on making weapons and bombs and radical material from the IS and Al Qaeda that he used to recruit the others.
“Rahman Mizanur has said he would carry out an attack anywhere if he was instructed by ISIS to do so, though there are no specific indications that Singapore had as yet been selected as a target. Several of those detained may be liable for prosecution for terrorism financing,” the home ministry said in a statement.
In January, Singapore said it had arrested and deported 26 Bangladeshi construction workers for forming a religious study group that spread the ideology of Al Qaeda and the IS.
Bangladesh police did not say if all 13 men were part of the same group.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh is reeling from a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by Islamic militants.
The IS and an al Qaeda branch in Bangladesh have said they are behind most of these killing but the claims have been rejected by the government.