The leader of the Islamic State in Bangladesh is believed to be originally from Canada and wants to use the group to carry out a two-front attack on India.
As the attack on Dhaka’s Holey Artisan Bakery was underway, Toronto-based terrorism expert Amarnath Amarasingam pointed out on Twitter that the person, identified as Tamim Chowdhury, was from Windsor city in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Amarasingam had originally made the identification in the first week of June after a Hindu priest was beheaded in Bangladesh.
He was quoted by Vice News as saying at the time that he suspected Chowdhury may have left Canada “shortly after harassment from the police” as he knew Ahmed Waseem and Mohammed Al Shaer, two men who travelled from Canada to Syria in 2013 to join the IS.
Law enforcement agencies in Canada are believed to have been monitoring Chowdhury at that time due to his association with the two men. Nearly 180 Canadians are believed to have left the country to join extremist groups abroad.
Chowdhury, using the nom de guerre of Shaykh Abū Ibrāhīm al-Hanīf, featured in an interview in the IS publication Dabiq’s 14th edition, in which he said he saw Bangladesh as a staging ground for carrying out a two-prong assault on India.
Described in the as the “amīr of the Khilafah’s soldiers in Bengal”, he said, “Bengal is an important region for the Khilāfah and the global jihād due to its strategic geographic position. Bengal is located on the eastern side of India, whereas Wilāyat Khurāsān is located on its western side.
“Thus, having a strong jihād base in Bengal will facilitate performing guerilla attacks inside India simultaneously from both sides and facilitate creating a condition of tawahhush (fear and chaos) in India along with the help of the existing local mujāhidīn there.”
Wilāyat Khurāsān is the name given by the IS to its chapter for Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of India.
As reported originally in Hindustan Times, he also said in the interview that the situation would continue “until the soldiers of the Khilāfah are able to enter with a conventional army and completely liberate the region from the mushrikīn (polytheists), after first getting rid of the ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Afghani’ regimes”.
Chowdhury also said in Dabiq that “jihād in Bengal is a stepping-stone for jihād in Burma”.
His hatred for minority Hindus was clear in the interview and extremists, in recent times, have carried out several attacks on the minority community, including two in the past week. Chowdhury was also critical of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Khaleda Zia.
The attackers in Dhaka slaughtered 20 hostages on Friday night before Bangladeshi troops stormed the restaurant. Two police officers also died in the exchange of fire with the attackers. Six of the attackers were killed and one was detained, while 13 hostages were rescued.