The arrest of two members of a banned Bangladeshi militant group, who confessed to wanting to kill Christian converts, has put the spotlight on the changing tactics of Muslim extremist groups in the country.
Security forces arrested two members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on 14 February in Dhaka, the capital, on suspicion of planning attacks on Muslims who had converted to Christianity.
According to a police official one of the two men arrested, Nuruzzaman Labu, 39, identified converts while driving them in his auto-rickshaw, given to him by the JMB.
“During interrogation, Labu said he already had targeted a man to murder. He has been following that man regularly,” the official said, as reported by the Dhaka Tribune.
The other suspect, 26-year-old Nazmul Islam Shaon, is alleged to have been involved in spreading extremist ideas and recruitment of new members.
Despite a government clampdown on the JMB in recent years, during which some of the ringleaders were executed, the organisation has “regrouped” according to Indian newspaper The Pioneer. Having initially spread large-scale terror through a country-wide bombing campaign in 2005 and the bombing of a bakery in 2016, “gradually it has become selective in its choice of victims”, the newspaper said.
Christians and members of other minority groups have been targeted in recent years, as well as foreigners.
In January a 23-old-man was attacked – allegedly because of his conversion to Christianity from Islam, and that his father is a pastor.
World Watch Monitor has reported regularly about other attacks against Bangladeshi Christians, such as in June 2016 when Christian shopkeeper Sunil Gomes was hacked to death. The police said in November last year that they had charged 12 Muslim militants with his murder, but four of them were still at large at the time of the announcement.
Bangladesh is 41st on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult for Christians to live.