Kuwait-based Islamist NGO hand found

NIA investigators probing the Burdwan blasts have come upon huge funding of JMB and Indian Mujahideen (IM) terror modules in West Bengal by the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS).

India Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 26 Oct 2014, 04:47 AM
Updated : 26 Oct 2014, 09:35 AM

They have found huge movement of funds through hawala channels into these modules.

The pattern uncovered points to funds flowing into Bangladesh and from there moving into India through hawala channels or through 'across-the-border couriers' who dumped the funds in Assam from where they were collected by JMB operators like Kausar and Shakeel.

In 2008, the US department of Treasury had designated the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) for providing financial and material support to al-Qaeda and al-Qaida affiliates, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jemaah Islamiyah, and Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya.

RIHS has also provided financial support for acts of terrorism, a US Treasury release had said.

"Designating and freezing the assets of an organization engaged in charitable work is a decision not taken lightly because the last thing we want to do is cut off needed humanitarian assistance," said Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the 2008 release.

"However, the reality is that RIHS has used charity and humanitarian assistance as cover to fund terrorist activity and harm innocent civilians, often in poor and impoverished regions. We have a responsibility to do all we can to shut down the funding channels of terrorism."

RIHS was designated under Executive Order 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing financial, technological, or material support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Any assets RIHS holds under US jurisdiction are frozen and US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transactions with RIHS.

The RIHS offices in Afghanistan (RIHS-Afghanistan) and Pakistan (RIHS-Pakistan) were designated by the US Government and the United Nations 1267 Committee in January 2002 based on evidence of their support for al-Qaeda. At that time, there was no evidence that the Kuwait-based RIHS headquarters (RIHS-HQ) knew that RIHS-Afghanistan and RIHS-Pakistan were financing al-Qaeda.

Since that time, however, evidence has mounted implicating RIHS-HQ in terrorism support activity. The US Government has learned that RIHS senior leadership, who have actively managed all aspects of the organisation's day-to-day operations, have been aware of both legitimate and illegitimate uses of RIHS funds.

"We designated two branches of RIHS in 2002, and since then a number of other countries have taken action against RIHS. We look forward to continuing our work with Kuwaiti authorities to ensure that legitimate charitable giving can reach those in need and not be diverted to terrorist organizations," Levey continued.

Suspected of providing support to terrorism, RIHS offices have been closed or raided by the governments of Albania, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, and Russia.

Several RIHS activists were arrested from Dhaka in 2005 but were then mysteriously let off.

After the Aug 17, 2005 countrywide orchestrated bomb explosions, Bangladesh intelligence recommended a ban on the RIHS and action against a number of other Middle Eastern NGOs found to be linked with the Islamist extremists.

Following the arrest of Islamist militant kingpin Asadullah Al-Galib, chief of Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab), intelligence agencies found further evidence of such funding -- by cheque and cash and sometimes even by hundi.

The investigators recovered a large number of computer documents, diaries, notes, books, booklets, leaflets and audiocassettes from Galib's house, and Ahab offices and madrasas in Rajshahi.

Analysing the information retrieved from the documents the investigators arrived at a more or less accurate profile of Galib including his connections with Islamist militants and funding agencies abroad.

From confessions and statements of arrested militants, and accounts of expenditures and diaries of militants seized, investigators learned that the banned Islamist outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is implementing plans originally hatched by Ahab and another outlawed group Harkat-ul Jihad (HuJi).

In 2005, the JMB was spending around Tk 6 million a year for maintaining its full-time leaders and cadres, and Tk 1 to 5 crore for buying explosives and firearms and executing attacks, according to a Bangladesh intelligence estimate quoted in the media at that time.

Intelligence sources said, apart from a seven-member majlish-e-sura, the central governing body, the JMB has 16 regional commanders, 64 district-heads, hundreds of operations commanders and around 200 Ehsars or full-time cadres.

Among the operational commanders, the late Bangla Bhai alone has the distinction of being a member of the majlish-e-sura.

The JMB also had a suicide squad. The family of every suicide bomber was to get Tk 50,000 to Tk 100,000 or more in compensation for a 'sacrifice'.

Much of this structure gone awry in the post-2009 crackdown has now been apparently revived in West Bengal.

"It is a classic case of offshore terror," says former IB official Subir Dutta. "They failed to survive in Bangladesh, so they shifted to West Bengal where they found the right conditions to regroup and prepare for a huge big strike."

And since the original source of funding from RIHS, led by Abdul Aziz Khalaf Malullah of Kuwait, had continued, it was not difficult for the JMB to regroup.

In countries where RIHS activities are banned or scrutinised by local governments, RIHS-HQ has developed multiple methods to continue its operations.

After the Government of Bangladesh closed RIHS offices in 2008 following the US Treasury order, RIHS-HQ funnelled money into Bangladesh through another organisation to continue RIHS activities and to help shield it from scrutiny there, US intelligence officials were quoted as saying.

RIHS-HQ has used RIHS officials and other individuals to courier funds out of the country in order to evade the scrutiny of the international financial system. In some countries, including Albania and Kosovo in particular, RIHS senior officials have assisted RIHS branch offices with name changes, and then continued to provide financial support to the new organisations.

India would be keen that Bangladesh actively follows up on checking the flow of RIHS funds through other NGOs and identify those channels.

"If these funding channels can be neutralised, half the job in fighting terrorism is done," said an Indian revenue intelligence official now on deputation to the NIA.