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Bangladesh could emerge as next major terror hub after Mumbai: Expert

By Hari Krishnan

Dhaka, Dec.14 (ANI): With terrorism having already established its roots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, there is a view that Muslim-dominated Bangladesh could emerge as the next hub of terror, terror attacks and Islamic fundamentalism.

Major General Muniruzzaman, one of south Asia's most respected counter terrorism analysts, told the Sunday Express that Bangladesh is already a "safe haven for terrorists and gun smugglers" and was riddled with Al Qaeda operatives, and warned that if the arc casts more of its shadow over the country's 160 million Muslims, global security could be destabilized for decades to come.

A "Facebook generation" of young British-based Bangladeshi radicals was already busy exporting extremist ideas back home via Internet networking sites, he added.

Experts are deeply concerned that the crises that have spread from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and now to India, could soon engulf Bangladesh, a country that is often forgotten.

In Britain alone, there is a 500,000-strong Diaspora of Bangladeshis, most of whom live in the fertile terror-breeding grounds of East London.

Major General Muniruzzaman, a former presidential adviser, told a meeting in Westminster this month that "radical fringes are trying to squeeze out tolerance with a growing religious intolerance".

Elsewhere, well-organised terror networks, including the HUJI organisation, which was founded with the help of Osama bin Laden in 1992, are already in place, he said.

In 2004, then British High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Anwar Choudhury, was injured in a bomb blast in the Sylhet district of the country.

One year later, fanatics triggered 527 explosives in all but one of the country's 64 districts during a devastating 30-minute bombing spree.

Although no one was killed, the retired general said the incidents were designed as a deliberate warning.

"They wanted to send a message," he said at the seminar in Parliament.

"That they were able to co-ordinate such an attack shows they have a well organised command structure, he added.

"Bangladesh is very vulnerable to terrorism and the situation is simmering. Mumbai showed that no one is safe."

The general said that Islamic fundamentalists were preying on the hardships endured by tens of millions of people in what is one of the world's most deprived countries.

Natural disasters such as the floods and cyclones that have hit the country in recent years have exacerbated that suffering-and radicals have been quick to exploit it.

At the same time, the general said, large numbers of Bangladeshi migrant workers have been returning from stints on the construction sites of the Middle East and Gulf with a Wahhabi ideology, a hardline form of Islam emanating from Saudi Arabia.

"They are bringing back the ills of Islam," the general said.

"Bangladesh is the bridge between south and southeast Asia, so geo-strategically, it is very important to the region. What happens there is crucial."

Fanatics have also been hard at work recruiting in the Jamaat strongholds in the lawless south east of the country, particularly near the border with Burma.

A domino-effect spread of Islamic fundamentalism to largely Buddhist Burma would change the entire dynamics of the region and send shockwaves around the world. (ANI)

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