Social Media, Encrypted Apps: 80pc militants use those to stay in touch | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 18, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:39 AM, February 18, 2020

Social Media, Encrypted Apps: 80pc militants use those to stay in touch

Say police based on info from 250 arrested militant suspects

Around 80 percent of those linked to militancy use social media and different encrypted messaging applications to communicate with each other.

Militant outfits, who mainly target those aged between 15 and 25, use the tools also to recruit new members, said Md Moniruzzaman, additional deputy inspector general of police's Anti-Terrorism Unit (ATU).

He made the comments while presenting the keynote speech at a seminar titled -- "Preventing Terrorism and Extremism Through Community Engagement" -- at the auditorium of Independent University Bangladesh (IUB) in the capital.

The analysis was based on information gleaned from around 250 arrested militant suspects, he said, adding that 120 of the alleged militants are aged between 15 and 25 while 110 between 26 and 35.

He said 82 percent of the 250 militants were radicalised through social media. Besides, 56 percent of the 250 had general education background and 22 percent madrasa background.

DIG Moniruzzaman identified frustration as one of the main factors that lead youths to extremism. The frustration stems from family affairs, unemployment, among other issues, he said.

He suggested engaging youths in different social activities to help them overcome that frustration. 

He also said around three million people were involved in community policing across the country and that law enforcers were using those people to raise awareness on the matter.

In his welcome address, IUB Vice-chancellor Milan Pagon recalled the Holey Artisan attack that left 22 people, mostly foreigners, dead in July 2016 and said some of the perpetrators were students. "So the threat of militancy is there and we all need to work together."

Talking about the role of institutions in curbing violence and extremism, Prof Md Abdul Khalque, dean, school of environmental science and management at the private university, said they emphasised on monitoring behaviour and suspicious activities of students by appointing academic advisers.

He said they have also engaged students in various extracurricular activities.

Speaking at the seminar, Kanbar Hossein–Bor, the British deputy high commissioner in Dhaka, said extremism was a global challenge and Bangladesh was not the only victim. He then stressed the need for overcoming fear and failure by facing challenges.

Penny Morton, acting Australian high commissioner in Dhaka, suggested embracing cultural diversities as it is instrumental in the fight against terrorism. "Don't leave anyone behind," Penny said.

Yesterday's daylong seminar was attended by over a hundred IUB students and members of different faculties.

As a student asked whether any innocent was framed in militancy-related cases, DIG Moniruzzaman said they handled such cases with highest sensitivity so that no one could be falsely implicated.

Replying to a query on shootouts, ATU chief Abul Kashem, an additional inspector general of police, said every citizen had the right to defend themselves. "There is a provision in the law that states every member of the law enforcement agencies has the right to save their lives. If needed, they can use force," he said.

He, however, said while using the force, the law enforcement agencies must comply with the law.

"Encounter or crossfire or fight whatever they are called does not matter. What matters is whether the force is used legally or not. If the force is used illegally, it is wrong and it constitutes a crime. But if the force is used legally, that is just."

The ATU in association with Community Development for Peace and IUB organised the programme as part of their community engagement in countering violent extremism.

Didar Ahamed, the deputy inspector general at the ATU, Md Haider Ali Khan, additional deputy inspector general for intelligence and international affairs at the police headquarters, A Matin Chowdhury, chairman of board of trustees at the IUB, among others, spoke at the seminar.

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