Vol. 4 Num 342 Mon. May 17, 2004  
Front Page

The hidden face of Bangla Bhai gang
JMJB is the same group that fought with cops in Jaipurhat last year from secret camp

The new vigilante Islamic group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), is no other than the Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) that hit headlines last year after its armed men fought with police for hours in Jaipurhat.

JMJB's self-styled spiritual leader, Moulana Abdur Rahman, claimed to The Daily Star that his organisation was established in 1998.

But an investigation reveals that the militant organisation is the same JMB that fought with police from a secret training camp in Khetlal in the northern district in August last year and fled, leaving behind many documents indicating the outfit's subversive plans.

Although police could not arrest Rahman, also JMB chief commander, back then, they arrested his brother Ataur Rahman Ibne Abdullah and 18 other militants.

A few days later, police released the militants and the higher authorities transferred several police officials involved in the Khetlal operation.

Rahman was born in Charshi village in Jamalpur Sadar Upazila. His father late Moulana Abdullah Ibne Fazal was a leader of an old Islamic organisation, Jamiatul Ahle Hadith. Fazal was accused of collaborating with Pakistani occupation forces during the 1971 Liberation War.

During his student life, Rahman entered his political career by joining the Islami Chhatra Shibir and later its patron, Jamaat-e-Islami. In the early 1980s, he studied at Madina Islami University in Saudi Arabia and worked at the Saudi embassy in Dhaka for five years from 1985.

He travelled to many countries, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia, with the latest visit to Pakistan last year.

Rahman said he set up a mosque and a madrasa with the financial help of well-known Islamic non-governmental organisation (NGO) Rabeta-e-Islam and another Islamic organisation, Islami Oytijjho Sangstha.

Although he claimed the JMJB is headquartered in Dhaka, investigations show all activities of the organisation revolved around the mosque and madrasas in Jamalpur.

At the local union parishad chairman's office at Kacharikoalipara in Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi, the militant leader told The Daily Star that the JMJB aimed at an Islamic revolution through jihad.

In the face of questions on the source of JMJB's income and his foreign visits, Rahman said: "The government opened an investigation in 1986-87. But it found nothing wrong with me."

The other top leader of JMJB, Bangla Bhai, who gave his real name as Siddiqul Islam, was also involved in the politics of ruling alliance partner Jamaat-e-Islami.

Locals believe they are actually an "action force" of Jamaat under a different banner, working secretly. But Rahman said: "We have no link with the Jamaat-e-Islami. Jamaat does not have good impression about us."

Asked about the members of JMJB's highest body, the Sura Board, Rahman said, "What will you do with the names?"

But minutes later, another JMJB member said: "Other members are Ashikur Rahman, Hafez Mahmud, Tarek Moni and Khaled."

He declined to disclose their head office address, adding: "If needed, you can call us on the mobile phone."

Rahman admits that his men had 'misunderstanding' with the police in August last year.

"About six months (read nine months) ago, our workers from Bogra, Jaipurhat, Rajshahi, Rangpur and other adjacent areas gathered in Khetlal to attend a meeting. But conspirators misled the police saying militants have gathered there. Police raided the place on wrong information. But they did not find any firearms."

According to The Daily Star report on August 16 last year, Rahman's men injured six policemen in an hour-long gunfight and looted three shotguns with 60 bullets from police. The house that was used as the camp of the militants belongs to a Jamaat leader and most militants managed to flee.

According to a cross-section of people interviewed, Rahman and his colleagues assume different names and identities in different places. If they face trouble, they use a new identity. After the Khetlal incident that exposed JMB's militant activities, the group appeared in a new shell of JMJB with a mission to cleanse underground outlaws popularly known as sarbaharas.

Rahman however claimed that his party under the name of JMJB has been into 'social activities' for the last six years and refused to call it a militant organisation. "Still, our workers have been attacked by the police in different times because of misleading information from others," he said.