The caliphate builders

The United States has finally recognised officially that the Harakat Ul-Jihad-I-Islami/Bangladesh, known more commonly as HUJI-B, is an international terrorist organisation. In fact, it has long been an organisation dedicated to building an Asian caliphate, one dead victim at a time.

It is almost impossible to get an up-to-date list of such designated groups from the US government, by the way. The Department of State gives you a 2005 list with 42 entries, but the first page of a simple Google search comes up with half a dozen since then. I would guess there are around 50 groups, all of them kind of scary but some of them like the Real IRA a little out of date.

“Designating” HUJI-B involves legal folderol such as US banks can’t take their deposits.

Meanwhile, in the real world where people do not don striped pants to head for work after a good sleep, giving this sort of publicity to HUJI-B is a Good Thing — a very good thing indeed. This is a very nasty group, dedicated to international terrorism.

For us here in Thailand, this is one of the most dangerous of all the Islamist groups. HUJI-B has specifically trained both Burmese Rohingya and Thai separatists in tactics, weapons and, of course religious indoctrination.

The Bengalis are a strange government. When I wrote a piece on Bangladesh extremists training southern Thai Muslims in terrorist tactics in the Bangkok Post in 2005, both the newspaper and I came under strong pressure from the polite but relentless ambassador from Dhaka to retract. Our piece was not exclusive, either.

The HUJI-B represents the western end of the caliphate that Islamists believe they can create in Southeast Asia. Almost every group from Abu Sayyaf to Yala Liberation Front shares the vision of an Islamic, sharia state from the southern Philippines to Bangladesh, incorporating Singapore, southern Thailand and lower Burma, in addition to the Islamic-majority countries of Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia.

Some say there is no foreign influence in southern Thailand’s terrorist uprising, but that is specious. In the first place, in a globalised world, there is always foreign influence. The attacks in the South have directly imported tactics like beheadings, improvised roadside explosives and, recently, the car bomb. But more than that, 700 Thais have been trained in South Asia, in al-Qaeda camps and elsewhere. HUJI-B is a player in the Thai insurgency, and the more people who know that the better.

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