Intermittent violence has blighted Bangladesh since it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 through a secular nationalist movement. Post-independence politics were dominated by conflict between the leading Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), affiliated with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami, and the secular Awami League (AL). Violence between party activists and the student wings of political parties persists and attacks often target political rallies. Widespread corruption and political stalemate contributed to popular disaffection and in keeping with a post-independence trend, a military-backed caretaker government took power in 2006. This administration handed power back to the new AL-led government in January 2009 following elections in late 2008, but not before a ‘crackdown’ in which large numbers of alleged militants and political activists were detained.
Violence in Bangladesh has exhibited religious dimensions and Islamist extremist groups have staged numerous bomb attacks in recent years. Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata are considered two of the most active organisations. Both groups were outlawed by the Bangladeshi government in February 2005, but the JMB continues to push for the introduction of Sharia law, largely by building new groups inspired by or involving the same leadership have such as Allahar Dal and the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Chattra Shibir (ICS). Although over ninety percent of Bangladesh’s population is Muslim, the extremist agenda of creating an Islamic state is not believed to command widespread popular support.