- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2010

Bangladeshi law enforcement authorities arrested the leader of a terrorist organization this week, notching up another victory in their fight against violent Islamist extremism.

Saidur Rahman, leader of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), was arrested in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Sunday.

JMB is linked to Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which U.S. and Indian intelligence agencies say was behind the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people, including six Americans, were killed.

The U.S. has been sharing information with and training Bangladeshi authorities as they clamp down on extremist groups.

Robert O. Blake, Jr., assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, congratulated the Bangladeshi government on Rahman’s arrest.

The arrest is the “latest in a series of high-profile success stories in which local Bangladeshi law enforcement officers have arrested terrorist leaders who threaten the countrys democratic institutions and secular traditions,” Mr. Blake said in a statement Thursday.

In a report for the Congressional Research Service, Bruce Vaughn, a specialist in Asian affairs, noted that Bangladesh has been largely successful in destabilizing Islamist militants since the widespread bombings that were carried out by JMB in 2005.

“Hundreds of JMB members, including key leaders, were arrested, and the leadership, including JMB founder Shaikh Abdur Rahman, were executed in the aftermath of the 2005 bombings,” Mr. Vaughn said.

Sheikh Mohammed Belal, deputy chief of mission at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Washington, said law enforcement officials were in the process of extracting information from Rahman that could lead to further arrests.

He said “rightist political parties” in Bangladesh had tried to paint the government’s campaign against extremist groups as an “anti-religious drive.”

JMB has sought to establish Islamist rule in Bangladesh.

Mr. Vaughn noted that arrests and seizures of bomb-making materials in recent years suggest that JMB had been able to regroup despite the crackdown since 2005.

Mr. Blake said JMB has been responsible for “numerous acts of indiscriminate violence against Bangladeshi civilians, including a coordinated series of bombings in August 2005 that affected 63 of the country’s 64 districts, as well as attacks on judges, police and ordinary citizens.”

Mr. Belal attributed the marginalization of JMB to the fact that Muslim clerics in Bangladesh had spoken out extremist groups.

He described the U.S. as “one of our most important allies” in the war against these extremists.

Mr. Blake, meanwhile, pledged continuing U.S. support to Bangladesh “to deny space to terrorists and to promote regional peace and security.”

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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