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Muslim charities face security probe in Bangladesh

world Updated: Mar 24, 2009 13:38 IST

AFP
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Bangladeshi authorities said on Tuesday they were investigating dozens of Muslim charities in the impoverished country over allegations that they are funding militants.

Finance minister A M A Muhith told AFP the government had decided to launch the probe a month after a mutiny at a military base in the capital, in which authorities suspect Islamic militants played a role.

"The investigation is under way. We are scrutinising their activities," Muhith said about the charities.

He said authorities were closely investigating organisations that were created between 2001 and 2006, under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led coalition government, which had Islamist party allies.

Thirty groups were under investigation, according to Bengali language paper Samakal, which said there were more than 78,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the grindingly poor nation of 144 million people. It is not known how many are classed as "Islamic."

More than 70 people were killed in the mutiny last month at the Bangladesh Rifles headquarters in Dhaka. At least 56 of the dead were senior army officers.

The government has said it has found links that suggest Islamic militants from the banned Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were involved in the revolt.

The JMB was blamed for a series of bombings and suicide attacks throughout Bangladesh in 2005 in which 28 people died. The group's leaders were hanged under the last military-backed government, in power for two years from January 2007.

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly said in the three months since coming to power that her civilian government will eradicate terrorism in the country.