March 25, 2009
Bangladesh orphanage run by British charity raided by anti-terror forces
Security forces claim orphanage run by Stockport charity was being used as training camp for Islamist militants
An orphanage run by a British charity in Bangladesh has been raided by local security forces who claim it was being used as a training camp and arms factory for Islamist militants.
The anti-terrorism Rapid Action Battalion said today that it had arrested four people, including a teacher and three caretakers, and was searching for the head of the charity, a British citizen known as Faisal.
The arrests came after a raid yesterday on the Green Crescent madrasa and orphanage on the remote southern island of Bhola, Lieutenant Colonel Munir Haque, an officer involved in the operation, said. The charity’s headquarters is thousands of miles away in the town of Stockport, south of Manchester.
“We found small arms ? about nine or 10 in total ? plus equipment to make small arms, about 3,000 rounds of ammunition, two walkie-talkies, two remote control devices and four sets of army uniforms,” Haque said.
“We also found enough explosives and other equipment to make several hundred grenades. We found some ordinary Islamic books, but others that are in line with extremists like Bin Laden.”
He said that there were about 11 children between the ages of seven and eight at the compound at the time of the raid, but no other adults.
Locals told the officers that the madrasa, or Islamic seminary, was a British charity financed by Faisal, who they said had lived in Britain for 25 years.
Green Crescent’s website showed that it was involved in projects in Bhola, as well as several others around Bangladesh and at least one in Pakistan.
Students in Britain and Bangladesh founded the British-registered charity in 1998, the site says.
KM Mamunur Rashid, another officer involved in the raid, said the charity had plans to build two more madrasas, although there were no details on the charity’s website.
“It is a big madrasa and we have so far gathered that this whole compound is being used for militant training,” he said.
Bangladeshi media reported that security forces believed the compound was used by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned militant group.
Bangladesh, with 154 million people, has the world’s fourth largest Muslim population after Indonesia, India and Pakistan.
The authorities have long viewed madrasas as potential recruiting grounds for militant groups such as JMB, which was blamed for a series of bomb attacks in the country in August 2005.
A number of investigations into dozens of Islamic charities were launched this month following a mutiny by border guards, which some officials believe was instigated or assisted by Islamic militants.
More than 70 people were killed, including at least 56 senior army officers, in the revolt at the headquarters of the Bangladesh Rifles in Dhaka, the capital.
Last week, police said suspected Islamist militants had threatened the principals of several English-language schools if they did not pay “tolls”.
Officials say Islamist militants, who have killed dozens of people in Bangladesh in bomb attacks in recent years, were trying to turn the country into a sharia-based Islamic state