The head of an elite Bangladeshi anti-crime agency on Monday asked militants from radical groups to return to normal life, promising they would be awarded 10 lakh Takas and an opportunity for rehabilitation.
Benazir Ahmed, director general of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), made the announcement after a 12-hour search for militant hideouts across vast riverine chars (shoals) in Sariakandi and Dhunat sub-districts of northern Bogra district.
Ahmed also announced that any person who provides information to security agencies about suspected hideouts or militants will be awarded 5 lakh Takas.
Members of several radicals groups, including the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), will be rehabilitated if they want to return to normal life, he said.
The offer came a little more than a fortnight after armed militants stormed a café in the Gulshan diplomatic zone of Dhaka and butchered 20 hostages, most of them foreigners, before being gunned down by security forces.
Officials said they conducted a massive search with about 550 personnel of different security agencies since early on Monday, covering vast and remote areas along the Jamuna river where some militants were reportedly trained.
During the search, Ahmed said, security forces only seized some books on jihad and some sharp weapons but did not give details of the recoveries and the places where they were made. The search covered the remote Char Kajla and Nimgachhi area of Bogra.
The drive was conducted after Shafiul, a suspected militant captured during an attack on Eid-ul-Fitr on July 7 at Sholakia in Kishorganj district, told officials he was trained up in the riverine area. Ahmed said some recoveries showed that militants had hideouts in the area but had left. He promised the drive in remote areas will continue.
Monday’s move was apparently aimed at spreading the message that no place would be spared from surveillance as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government is facing the serious political challenge of rooting out militants reportedly belonging to domestic radical groups tied to international organisations.
Dozens of people, including secular and atheist bloggers, members of minority groups and foreigners, have been attacked and killed allegedly by Islamist radicals since last year. This has given rise to concern at home and abroad that Islamist militancy is on the rise in the Muslim-majority nation, a parliamentary democracy with a fragile opposition.
Bangladesh was rattled after the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan on July 1. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but authorities said the young attackers belonged to the JMB.