Over two years after its formation, the Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU) will finally operate in full swing now as it has been empowered to investigate cases related to terrorism and militancy.
The government published the rules for the ATU in this regard on Tuesday through a gazette notification.
The ATU was formed in 2017 with a countrywide mandate after the home ministry approved the formation of the 581-member unit on September 19 that year.
With an additional inspector general as its head, the unit was operational on a limited scale since it had no authority to investigate any terrorism-related cases.
Even those cases filed by the ATU after the arrest of suspected militants used to be probed by police stations concerned or other units, said officials of the unit.
“The rules determine what we can do and what we cannot,” Superintendent of Police (media) of ATU Mahiduzzaman told The Daily Star yesterday.
“The rules empower us to do any kind of investigation relating to cases filed in connection with terrorism and militancy. Power to investigate cases is the backbone of any law enforcing agency,” he added.
The officer said now they would be able to work in full swing.
“Now, we will investigate the cases that we will lodge. Besides, we will also be generally responsible for investigating all militancy-related cases, which will be filed outside the Dhaka Metropolitan area,” Mahiduzzaman said.
In February last year, the Police Headquarters sent a set of draft rules for the ATU to the home ministry for approval.
The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of DMP, formed in December 2015, is the only specialised counterterrorism unit of the police. It needs special permission from the Police Headquarters to launch anti-militancy drives outside the DMP area.
The ATU will run independently with the jurisdiction to operate countrywide, unlike the CTTC unit.
Although it is based in Dhaka, the ATU, having all modern facilities, will be able to launch operations in the country’s remote areas at short notice.
All metropolitan and district police will be legally bound to assist the ATU. In future, it will have offices in metropolitan cities, as per the rules.
The government has already allocated Tk 350 crore that will be spent for infrastructural development of the unit, purchase of modern equipment and software to combat militancy, and for de-radicalisation programmes in jail.
As per the rules, apart from investigating cases relating to militancy and terror financing, the unit will take measures for de-radicalisation of militants, make and implement plans for countering violent extremism and preventing violent extremism, carry out lawful interception of extremists and terrorists, and deal with hostage situations.
According to the rules, the ATU will investigate cases already filed under the anti-terrorism act if any unit of police wants to transfer the charge of investigation of the cases.