Who are the Bangladeshi ‘Islamist Militants’?

Ali Riaz


Bangladesh has attracted international media attention for heightened militant activities in 2015, particularly after a series of killings of bloggers by a local militant group allegedly associated with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and after murders of foreign nationals, responsibility of which was claimed by the Islamic State (IS). Islamist militant groups in Bangladesh which emerged in the 1990s have undergone several transformations. Originally grown out of the volunteers who joined the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, these groups have since then taken different shapes. Since the 1990s, five ‘generations’ of militant groups appeared on the scene. In some measures, the militant groups have come full circle: they began as a result of a global agenda fighting an ‘atheist’ Communist system (war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan) to now being part of establishing a global ‘khilafat’ (by joining the IS in Syria and Iraq) via pursuing a circumscribed local agenda for a period in the early 2000s. Despite such transformations, very little is known about the Bangladeshi militants. This article attempts to address this lacuna by examining the socio-demographic profile of Bangladeshi militants arrested between July 2014 and June 2015. The findings reveal a significant diversity among the militants. Contrary to public perceptions in Bangladesh, significant numbers of militants are well-educated and come from a middle class background.

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Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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