Islamicist factions in Bangladesh fund insurgencies via poaching in northeast India

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2007:


GUWAHATI, India–The May 27, 2007 arrest of alleged Naga
poaching kingpin Lalkhang Go “revealed a nexus between the poachers
and the militants across the region,” reported Hindustan Times
correspondent Rahul Karmakar.
Forestry department wildlife officer Surajit Dutta told
Karmakar that a 12-member team tracked Go and two associates for
three days in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, 60 kilometers from
“With the help of local people,” Karmakar wrote, “forest
guards caught Go while he was trying to shoot a rhino in the
sanctuary. His accomplices, however, managed to escape.”
Said Dutta, “Go confessed to killing rhinos and other
animals. He said he had received arms training from the National
Socialist Council of Nagaland,” a rebel force that has fougt the
Indian government for 27 years, at cost of about 10,000 human lives.
Go’s confession appeared to confirm the findings of Guardian
reporters Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark in a comprehensive
investigation of wildlife trafficking in Assam published on May 5,

“According to India’s security services, police,
intelligence analysts, local traders and forestry officials, Islamic
militants affiliated with al-Qaida are sponsoring poaching” in India,
Nepal, Burma, and Thailand,” Levy and Scott-Clark wrote.
“These groups have established bases in the formerly moderate
enclave of Bangladesh, and have agents operating all along
Bangladesh’s porous 2,500-mile border with India,” Levy and
Scott-Clark asserted. “They have gone into business with local
animal trappers and organized crime syndicates in a quest for horns,
ivory, pelts and other animal products with which to raise funds
that they can move around the world invisibly.”
Wildlife trafficking to support ideological militance is
nothing new. Poaching sustained the legendary Robin Hood and his
Merry Men, for example, in their early 13th century rebellion
against high taxes imposed by King John to pay the debts incurred by
his Crusader brother, Richard the Lionhearted.
The former apartheid regime in South Africa funded
clandestine military operations in neighboring nations during the
1980s through covert trafficking in elephant ivory and rhino horn.
After the South African operations were exposed and curtailed, the
Lebanese-based Palestinian militia Hamas reputedly grabbed market
share by outfitting poachers in several northern African nations.
Later, al-Qaida armed Somalia militias who have aggressively
poached in neighboring Kenya.
Now, reported Levy and Scott-Clark, “Radical Islamists from
Bangladesh have done what conservationists had long predicted and
moved in on the endangered species
racket” in the wildlife-rich tongue of India that lies north of
Bangladesh, west of Myanmar, and south of China.
“Religious men hold the purse strings now,” one trafficker
said. Remarked another, “This was a Chinese business, but now it’s
Bangladesh’s business. It’s become God’s work. And, as you know,
the Prophet, peace be upon his head, is irresistible.”
Levy and Scott-Clark learned from the traffickers that
representatives of two Bangladeshi militias assembled a meeting in a
Siliguri madrassah in 2005 to organize the poaching industry as it is
now structured.
Three sources told Levy and Scott-Clark that the instigator
was Al Mujahideen, “an obscure jihadist umbrella organisation
governing a panoply of militant groups that have sprung up in
Bangladesh in recent years. Two in particular, both banned by the
Bangladeshi government, were in need of money and eager to get into
the racket,” Levy and Clark-Scott wrote.
One was Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, “allegedly linked to
al-Qaida; the second was Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, whose
leader, Shaikh Abdur Rahman, had joined Bin Laden’s World Islamic
Front for the Jihad Against the Jews and the Crusaders in 1998. He
was captured in Bangladesh and in March 2007 was hanged for the
killing of two Bangladeshi judges and for nationwide bombings in
Concluded Levy and Scott-Clark, “A senior Indian security
source, based in the northeast, who has tracked the incursion into
the trade by Bangladeshi militants, warns that the poaching has
global consequences.”
Said the source, “There is an environmental disaster in the
offing here, but as pressing are the security ramifications,” he
says. “Only a minuscule percentage of the vast profits need to
trickle back into a nascent Islamic insurgency in a country like
Bangladesh to bring it to the boil. And then it can reach out around
the world.”

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