By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) While most of the headlines regarding the current national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border focus on Central American migrant caravans and Democrat complaints about Trump administration enforcement actions, a behind-the-scenes effort aimed at interdicting terrorist suspects from Bangladesh has been quietly underway.
Todd Bensman, the senior national security fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors limited, legal immigration, “The country of Bangladesh fairly teems with ISIS and al-Qaeda members, followers of a radical Islamist political party now out of power, homegrown jihadists of other various strands, and foreign terrorist fighters returning from Syria with combat experience.”
Bangladeshi nationals are seen as among the highest priorities of “special interest aliens” — not because of the “Muslim-majority” nature of their country but because the Trump administration’s intelligence apparatus has confirmed that ISIS and other terrorist organizations are more prevalent there than in other countries.
And, they are attempting to reach the United States along well-established smuggling routes that are international in scope.
Last week, there was a development related to this border traffic. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the arrest of Mexico-based Bangladeshi smuggler Milon Miah at Houston’s George Bush International Airport for his alleged role in transporting at least 14 Bangladeshis over the U.S. border.
His arrest and forthcoming prosecution in Texas represent another advance in a largely unacknowledged international counterterrorism campaign unfolding far from our physical land border. It is formally predicated on the idea that illegal immigration from Muslim-majority countries, like Bangladesh, poses the unique risk that some are radicalized and, once inside the United States, could commit acts of terrorism.
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and other agencies, such as the U.S. Southern Command, occupy the tip of this spear, logging an impressive series of Latin American smuggling network disruptions over the past year, as I outlined in this August 27 post about another big smuggler bust in Brazil.
Bensman notes there have been at least 25 prosecutions of these smugglers since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Each new one “offers a unique opportunity to learn a little more about how smugglers maintain the incredibly expansive intercontinental bridges over which Islamic extremists could certainly travel to the southern border anytime they choose, alongside non-threatening asylum seekers and economic migrants,” he writes.
It works like this: Bangladeshi smugglers relocate to southern Mexico, establish a business, and use their resources to house, feed, and rest Bangladeshi nationals enroute to the U.S. It’s not know how many have ties to ISIS or other terrorist groups, but the potential is very real since the organizations are very prevalent in the home country.
In fact, there has already been an attempted terrorist attack by a Bangladeshi national. As Christine Fair notes at Lawfare:
On 12 December , a 27-year old named Akayed Ullah attempted—but failed—to set off a pipe bomb in the New York City subway. He hailed from Bangladesh, a country that few Americans had ever heard of. While Ullah may be the one of the first Bangladeshi terrorists to make the front page of American newspapers, he may not be the last. Bangladesh may be an important source of future jihadi manpower.
Despite the fact that many scholars, political analysts and foreign policy experts have held up Bangladesh as an example of a “moderate Muslim democracy,” such characterizations belie the reality on the ground.
“Indeed, since Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan in 1971, the durability of both secularism and democracy have been undermined by numerous military coups—many of which involved multiple counter-coups before a clear ‘victor’ emerged—in 1974-75, 1977-1980, 1981-82, 1996, and 2007. In January 2012, the military claimed it had thwarted another coup,” writes fair, noting further that the two principle political parties in the country “are known more for their rivalry, corruption, and incompetence than for governance.”
In January, Sean Hannity of Fox News aired a clip of investigative journalist and network contributor Sara A. Carter interviewing a pair of migrants making their way through Mexico to the U.S. border. The men said they had been walking for three months. Both were from Bangladesh.
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