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Bangla probes possible militant bank transactions

Written by: Staff

Dhaka, March 15: Bangladesh has started checking on suspicious bank transactions, trying to identify sources of funding for Islamist militants in the country, government and bank officials said today (Mar 14, 2006).

They said the central bank had already issued a ''show cause'' notice to the Islami Bank -- the country's only sharia-based commercial bank after investigators found suspicious transactions at several accounts.

The investigations are being conducted by the central bank's anti-money laundering department, the officials said.

Islami Bank officials were not available for comments.

Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited started operations in March 1983 and as of December 2005 had a local shareholding of 40.62 percent, with the rest foreign.

It has become popular with many Bangladeshis -- especially the middle class and women.

Finance Minister M. Saifur Rahman told reporters yesterday that the central bank had legal authority to conduct such checks and propose punishment for offenders. He gave no details.

Bangladesh is a signatory to U N conventions on fighting terror financing.

The banking probe was part of a crackdown on the country's two outlawed Islamist militant groups -- Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh -- which are blamed for a countrywide series of bomb attacks that have killed at least 30 people and wounded 150 since August 17 last year.

These groups are fighting for introduction of sharia law in Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim democracy.

The government and law enforcement agencies have said the operational networks of the two groups which are believed to have been funded from Middle East-based Islamic groups -- have been largely shattered following recent capture of their top leaders.

Security forces forced Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen supreme commander Shayek Abdur Rahman to surrender in northeastern town of Sylhet on March 2. Four days later they captured Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai, head of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, in a gunbattle in the northern Mymensingh district.

Government officials today said the crackdown on the militants would continue on ''all fronts'' until they were completely wiped out.

Bangladesh's success in caging the militants and promises to bring them to justice have been praised at home and abroad, especially the United States.


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