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Bangladesh secretly purchased mass surveillance equipment from Israel: Report

Bangladesh has reportedly purchased mass surveillance equipment from Israel to spy on its own people, even though the country claims to have no official relations with the Tel Aviv regime.

The Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera said in a report published on Tuesday that it had obtained documents that showed the Bangladeshi army had purchased the Israeli equipment in 2018.

The report, dubbed “All the Prime Minister’s Men,” said the deal had been made between the Bangladeshi military intelligence agency, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), and the Israeli company PicSix to provide the army with a mobile phone monitoring system.

One condition listed on the contract, which Al Jazeera said it had obtained, was the signing of a non-disclosure agreement.

“The contractor said no way that people in Bangladesh should know that this product comes from Israel,” Al Jazeera quoted an “undercover source” as saying.

The contract also listed the country of origin for the equipment as Hungary.

The Qatar-based news channel said that Israeli experts had trained Bangladeshi military intelligence officers on how to use the equipment.

Bangladesh, the world’s fourth-largest Muslim nation, has no official ties with Israel.

“The technology is very aggressive and intrusive. You don’t want the public to know that you’re using that equipment,” said James Moloney, CEO of a company known as Sovereign Systems.

London-based Privacy International’s expert, Elliot Bendinelli, said that the equipment was used for mass surveillance, capable of tracing 200 to 300 mobile phones at the same time.

“It behaves like a cell tower, so all the phones in a certain area are going to connect to it and it will be capable of intercepting communications,” Bendinelli told Al Jazeera.

“Everything you’re doing on your phone, text messages, phone calls, and websites you’re visiting are going to be intercepted,” he said.

He also said that the specific model that was purchased was able “to change the content of a text message.”

One of the significant figures in the procurement of the reported contract was Haris Ahmed — the brother of the head of the Bangladeshi army, Aziz Ahmed — who had been convicted of murder in 1996.

The deal with the Israeli firm was signed only one day after his brother was appointed to the position, the report said.

Haris, for whom an Interpol red notice had been issued and who was wanted in Bangladesh, resettled in Hungary by the use of a fake passport.

He has been running several businesses across Europe with the help of his brother, according to Al Jazeera.

Bangladesh rejects report

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen dismissed the report in an interview with BBC Bengali, saying that his country had “not bought anything from Israel, and we have nothing to do with them.”

The general secretary of Bangladesh’s ruling party, Awami League, also dismissed the report as “politically motivated, untrue and biased.”

Obaidul Quader said that the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was considering taking legal action against Al Jazeera.


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