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Army wanted to strike Bangla terror camps

Army wanted to strike Bangla terror camps

Author: Srinjoy Chowdhury
Publication: The Statesman
Date: December 1, 2002
URL: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?date=2002-12-01&clid=2&id=6761

The Army was set to strike at terrorist camps in Bangladesh five years ago, but the Centre did not accept the proposal.

External affairs minister Mr Yashwant Sinha said in Parliament recently that the ISI was active in Bangladesh. Five years ago, the situation was different. The ISI was not as active and the camps were mostly of terrorists who operated in India and moved to Bangladesh to seek refuge.

The Centre hesitated because Sheikh Hasina Wazed had just come to power in Bangladesh and a strike, it was felt, would weaken her position, and therefore, be politically "counter-productive". The camps were situated in eastern and south-eastern Bangladesh, in Sylhet and Chittagong hill tracts.

The Army had planned to strike at the camps from Karimganj in Lower Assam, Tripura and Nagaland. Small detachments of infantry plus special forces commandos, if necessary, would have been used to clear the camps.

The camps were situated close to the border and deeper strikes would not have been necessary. It would have been a quick operation with soldiers, quickly moving in, destroying the camps and moving out.

But the government felt that security forces in Bangladesh were not entirely with Sheikh Hasina.

A substantial number of terrorist camps were operating in Bangladesh at that time. Arms for them were mostly being purchased in Bangkok and shipped in trawlers and fishing boats to the ports of Cox's Bazar and Chalna. The weapons were mostly 'war surplus' from Cambodia. They were unloaded in these areas - mostly forested - and moved to the camps.

In the mid '90s, a number of terrorist groups were very active in the North-east. Running away from Indian security forces, they sought refuge in Bangladesh and Bhutan. There were plans to strike at Ulfa camps in Bhutan, but the proposals were turned down. Many of the camps are still active today.

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