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Potential partners, not sleeping al Qaida, worry Delhi

New Delhi, Oct. 23: Indian security officials have long been aware of the presence of pro-Taliban and al Qaida activists and supporters in Bangladesh. Soon after 9/11 and much before the US talked about it, they had noted the return of many Bangladeshis from Afghanistan, Indian agencies claimed.

Indian agencies believe al Qaida activists are likely to lie low for some time. They have been pushed to the no man’s land beyond Chittagong to the unadministered areas between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Intelligence sources said they had been told to lie low and not create any problems for the Bangladesh government.

Khaleda Zia and her government know very well that Dhaka cannot go against the prevailing international mood against terrorism. No leeway will be given to these elements because Bangladesh cannot afford to bring the wrath of the US administration on its head.

Al Qaida is unlikely to waste time and energy on terrorist attacks in the Northeast. They would rather target the Indian heartland or a metropolitan centre so as to attract maximum attention, an intelligence official said.

“We are not worried about any immediate attack but of the long-term repercussion of fundamental thought. Bangladesh’s fundamental pro-al Qaida outfit, Huji, will try to spread its influence in the Northeast, especially Assam and Manipur, the two states which have a sizeable minority community population,” the official said.

All the northeastern states are already on alert for possible Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (Huji), Taliban or al Qaida activists slipping in. The alert was issued long ago, though recent articles in a US newsmagazine confirmed what the agencies already knew.

Indian intelligence agencies keep close watch on Bangladesh as it borders the sensitive north-eastern states. Vigilance has been increased after Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party came to power. Delhi’s relations with the BNP regime are not as warm as it was with Sheikh Hasina’s government. The goings-on in Bangladesh are continuously monitored because of the threat from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence.

Officials in Delhi say that when the US attack on Afghanistan was imminent, foreigners in the country left or were asked to leave.

Most of the Bangladeshis who returned home were from the al Qaida-allied terrorist group, Huji. As pressure on the Taliban and al Qaida intensified, more Huji cadre returned, accompanied by Talibans.

Many Bangladeshis, Arakanese, Malays from Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesians and Filipinos — who fought as members of the Hakats and Lashkar against the Northern Alliance and subsequently against the US in Afghanistan — have also been finding their way into Bangladesh. They are allegedly helped by the Hakrat Jehad and the Jamaat-e-Islami, a member of the ruling coalition in Dhaka.

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