Key radical Islamist groups in Bangladesh

Hours after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused one group of religious radicals of killing a gay rights activist and his friend on Monday night, a different group took responsibility for the attack.

The government's apparent misfire, including accusations of links to the political opposition, underlines growing doubts about its assurances that it is cracking down on Islamist extremists and maintaining order in the politically fractious South Asian country of 160 million.

Deadly stabbing and hacking attacks have continued, with different groups claiming responsibility for killing rights activists, atheist bloggers, foreign aid workers and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation. Claims of responsibility have also come from the Islamic State group based in the Middle East, although Hasina's government has dismissed those claims and said the extremist Sunni group has no presence in Bangladesh.

The attacks have alarmed the international community and raised concerns that religious extremism is taking hold in the traditionally moderate country.

These are the main Islamic political parties and radical groups in the country:



Jamaat-e-Islami is Bangladesh's largest Islamist party and is a partner of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, the archrival of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina has accused the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-islami of orchestrating the violent attacks to create chaos in the country, an allegation the opposition denies.

Jamaat-e-Islami advocates the introduction of Shariah, or Islamic laws.

Its leaders opposed Bangladesh's 1971 war to gain independence from Pakistan. Its members formed groups and militias to aid Pakistani soldiers during the war and acted as an auxiliary force involved in kidnappings and killings of those who supported independence. Many of its top leaders fled the country after independence, but returned following the 1975 assassination of independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Jamaat-e-Islami was banned for a brief period after the 1971 war, but was revived in 1979 after a military dictatorship took power following a series of coups and counter-coups. The group gained in strength and became a serious political force by the early 2000s.

Many of its top leaders have been accused of war crimes, and some have been executed after special tribunal proceedings that were widely criticized as flawed.

Bangladesh's High Court canceled the party's registration in 2013, effectively barring it from contesting elections. The party has appealed the decision.



The Ansarullah Bangla Team — also operating under the names Ansar al-Islam and Ansar Bangla 7 — is the Bangladeshi affiliate of al-Qaida on the Indian subcontinent, or AQIS.

Now banned in Bangladesh, the group claimed responsibility for the killings of four secular bloggers last year, as well as the killing Monday night of two men including a gay rights activist who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ansarullah came to light as an active Islamist group in 2013, when secular blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was killed by attackers in front of his home in Dhaka, the capital. Detectives arrested seven suspects, including students at a top private university and the group's alleged chief, Jasimuddin Rahmani, a former imam of a Dhaka mosque.

They have been indicted and are currently facing trial. The other suspects said Rahmani's sermons inspired them to attack Haider.

Bangladesh intelligence officials have said they tracked down the group after investigating a blog called "Ansarullah Bangla Team" which had five administrators, including two in Pakistan. In 2014, detectives arrested a Bangladeshi man and said he was one of the administrators. Despite the arrests of at least 40 suspected group members, the blog remains active with other administrators who operate from abroad, according to Bangladeshi intelligence.



The group was founded in 1998 by Shaikh Abdur Rahman, a religious teacher educated in Saudi Arabia.

It came to notice in 2001 when it engaged in conflict with an extremist communist group in Dinajpur in northern Bangladesh. On Aug. 17, 2005, it exploded about 500 homemade bombs at nearly 300 locations almost simultaneously across the country as part of a campaign demanding the introduction of Shariah law.

Later it continued its violent campaign by attacking and killing judges and police, and threatening journalists and women without veils.

It created a large network of supporters; some government officials say it has as many as 10,000 members.

In 2005, six of its leaders including Rahman were arrested and the group was banned. The six were hanged in 2007 after being convicted of the killings of two judges.

However, it remains active and has attempted to regroup. Dabiq, a magazine of the Islamic State group, has claimed Rahman was the founder of the jihadi movement in Bangladesh.