By Jhumur Deb
A British Rohingya man has been charged with helping the al-Qaeda extremist group build its base in the Indian sub-continent, according to a charge sheet drawn up by India’s top counter terror agency.
Suspect Samiun Rahman, 28, fought for al-Qaeda in Syria, then travelled to Bangladesh and India to recruit people to fight against alleged atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims by Buddhist-majority Myanmar, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said in a charge sheet made public on Wednesday.
Rahman served three years in prison in Bangladesh on related charges there before entering India in July 2017. He was arrested in New Delhi in September last year.
“After detailed investigation of Rahman’s online chats on several mobile applications and documents recovered from his laptop, it was revealed that he fought against the Syrian army from an al-Qaeda base in Syria. He was then sent to Bangladesh due to his knowledge of the local language and was assigned the task of establishing an al-Qaeda base in the Indian sub-continent,” the NIA alleged.
Rahman had served time in a London jail for a traffic violation before his first trip to Syria, the charge sheet said.
India and Bangladesh are al-Qaeda’s prime targets for recruitment and terrorist plots besides the United States and Israel, Rahman told investigators, according to the charge sheet.
Al-Qaeda was trying to tap potential recruits in several states, particularly the disputed Muslim-majority region of Indian Kashmir, it added.
Rahman was arrested in India’s capital last year on suspicion of being involved in terrorist activities after he allegedly crossed into Indian territory from Bangladesh illegally, according to the charge sheet, accessed by BenarNews.
It added he was planning to enter Myanmar through Mizoram, a bordering northeastern Indian state.
He had been imprisoned in Bangladesh, from October 2014 till April 2017, for terrorism-related activities before moving his base to India, according to the NIA document.
Southeastern Bangladesh is home to refugee camps housing some 1 million Rohingya who have fled various cycles of violence over the years in the neighboring Myanmar state of Rakhine. The charge-sheet did not indicate whether Rahman spent any time in those refugee camps.
“He entered India through the Beenapole border [crossing] in West Bengal without valid documents in July 2017,” it said.
Indian plans to deport Rohingya
The charge sheet against Rahman has come at a time when India’s Hindu nationalist government is planning to deport some 40,000 members of the stateless and mostly Muslim minority group from Myanmar who have settled in India. The government has said it has evidence to link Rohingya refugees with terrorist outfits that pose a threat to national security.
“[The] Rohingya presence in the country has serious national security ramifications. There is [a] serious possibility of eruption of violence against Buddhists who are Indian citizens and who stay on Indian soil by radicalized Rohingyas,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said in an affidavit filed by the Supreme Court, which is hearing the ongoing case.
Rohingya refugees living in India said the NIA charge sheet against Rahman was possibly a ploy by Indian security agencies to make the government’s case for the deportation of the displaced community stronger.
“Why were the charges filed so many months after his arrest, and that too made public just days before the Supreme Court is set to rule on the case? And all the charges that have been filed against Rahman seem very similar to the Indian government’s stance. It seems like a well-planned plot to get the court to rule in favor of the government,” Mohammed Salim, a camp leader at a Rohingya refugee settlement in Delhi, told BenarNews.
However, security analysts said the NIA was an independent probe agency and that the government did not interfere with its investigations.
“It is true that the Rohingya are a deprived and potentially violent lot. There is every possible chance that any fundamentalist group, be it al-Qaeda or Islamic State, will try to cash in on the sentiments and India’s and Bangladesh’s porous borders with Myanmar, to recruit members of the community,” G.M. Srivastava, an Assam-based security analyst, told BenarNews.
Rohit Wadhwaney in New Delhi contributed to this report.