A FEW months back, I wrote an article giving details about a Bangladeshi girl named Momena Shoma, who had knife-attacked an innocent person in Australia. The victim had offered Shoma the use of their home whilst Shoma was visiting Australia on a scholarship program.
Later it was learned that a radicalized Shoma went to Australia with her mindset of killing “enemies of Allah”. She also told the interrogators that during her stay in Bangladesh, Shoma had been radicalized.
Shoma, a Bangladeshi student who enrolled in an Australian university with the aim of killing someone in the name of ISIS, was jailed for 42 years yesterday for stabbing her local host as he slept.
Momena Shoma, 26, admitted to engaging in a terrorist act when she stabbed Roger Singaravelu in the neck with a kitchen knife just eight days after arriving in Australia.
Shoma, who wore a black niqab showing only her eyes at the sentencing hearing in Victoria state’s supreme court, shouted “Allahu akbar” as she attacked Singaravelu, who survived and was also present at the hearing, the court heard.
“Your deeds and words, and the intentions accompanying them are chilling,” said judge Lesley Taylor in handing down the sentence of 42 years, with a non-parole period of 31 years and six months. She faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Taylor said her actions “sent ripples of horror throughout the Australian community”.
“But they do not make you a martyr. They do not make you a beacon of Islam… They make you an undistinguished criminal,” she said.
Prosecutors said Shoma became radicalized in 2013 while living in Dhaka and became enamored of the ISIS and its calls for Muslims to engage in violent jihad against non-Muslims.
After failed attempts to study in Turkey — with the aim of crossing into ISIS-controlled parts of Syria — prosecutors said Shoma received a scholarship to study at La Trobe University in Melbourne and arrived in the city on February 1, 2018.
She moved in with an Australian family under a homestay program for foreign students and immediately began planning an attack on them, the court heard.
She purchased night vision goggles on February 3 and on February 6 rehearsed an attack by repeatedly stabbing the mattress of her host couple when they were not home.
The family discovered the damage and immediately asked the homestay organizers to remove her from the home.
Shoma was then placed with Singaravelu’s family and stabbed him three days later after watching videos about ISIS online, the court heard.
Outside court Singaravelu, an immigrant from Malaysia said he was amazed to have survived the attack, and questioned how Shoma could have obtained a visa to travel to Australia.
“We came from Malaysia, from a Muslim country. We came to Australia for a better life. And most importantly, the security of this country,” he told reporters.
“She was red flagged in other countries; how she was allowed here?” he asked.
At the height of ISIS’ notoriety in 2014, Momena applied for a student visa to travel to Turkey to take up a scholarship from Ankara’s Atılım University, but probably really intending to join ISIS. However, the Turkish consulate in Dhaka turned her down, as it did about half the Bangladeshi student applicants.
A Bangladeshi police report found that Momena’s sister Asmaul Husna also became radicalized after their mother’s death from diabetes in June 2015. The sisters took to watching Al-Qaeda and ISIS videos. Both sisters got inspired to devote themselves to jihad and vowed to fight for establishing an Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh. They joined a faction of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an ISIS-linked jihadist group with a violent record dating back to 2005 (when it announced itself with 350 explosions in one hour) and culminating with the attack, killing 29 people [mostly foreigners] at the Holy Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s posh diplomatic enclave named Gulshan on July 1, 2016.
On February 9, 2018, after two days with the Singaravelus, Momena struck. At 4:25 p.m. with Maha out of the house and Roger napping on a mattress in the lounge, child in arms, wearing her burqa, she used her stolen knife to stab her host in the neck. But the under-five-foot woman lacked the strength to cut the much larger Roger’s jugular vein, getting the knife only superficially into his neck – enough to make him bleed “like a fountain” but not enough to do him fatal damage.
In his words: “I thought I was dreaming as I felt a sharp pain on my neck. I woke up and started screaming.” He tried to pull the knife out as Momena leaned over him and pushed it in, yelling all the while, “Allahu Akbar.”
Bangladeshi ineptitude reached new heights when, three days after Momena’s attack on Feb. 9, a Dhaka Metropolitan Police team from the CTTC went to the Shoma family home at the Royal Aroma Garden apartment building to investigate. Moniruzzaman cooperated during the two-hour inquiry. But Momena’s sister Asmaul Husna (aka Sumona), who also attended elite English-language schools, was “very rough” in her attitude.
Then, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit (CTTC) of Bangladesh Police reports: “when the police officers were leaving, Sumona surprisingly launched a knife attack, shouting Allahu Akbar. She also said, ‘You are Kafirs [infidels]. We must establish the rule of Islam in the country. We must do jihad if necessary’.” A press account quotes her adding, “I will kill [Bangladeshi Prime Minister] Sheikh Hasina, I will kill [Syrian President Bashar] Assad. They are all infidels. One day everyone will join jihad and Islam will rule the world.”
The injured policeman was taken to the hospital and quickly released. The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit (CTTC) of Bangladesh Police subsequently found that, before departing for Melbourne, Momena had ordered her sister to murder a policeman and instructed her on use of a knife. Due to her JMB membership, Asmaul Husna was charged with terrorism. One would have expected a counterterrorism team to be a little better prepared for trouble from a potential jihadi.
Within three days, then, the two sisters, both inspired by Islamic motives, had stabbed two victims in two countries. In the face of Momena’s eventual guilty plea, the denial on the part of her family stands out. Her uncle asked, “How can she be involved in militancy after only eight days in Australia? We cannot picture her holding a knife. She is not an aggressive or cruel person. No way can she be part of terrorism. We are Muslim, but we are not terrorists or extremists.” The uncle recently refused to reply to my question whether, after she pleaded guilty, he still maintains Momena’s innocence.