Govt finally cracks down on militants; Galib arrested |
Bans JMJB, JMB, combs for Bangla Bhai; 16 more Islamists held
Waking up to the militants' threat, the government at last banned Islamist outfits Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) yesterday accusing them of a series of bomb attacks and killings to create anarchy.
The ban following a persistent denial by the government of the existence of JMJB throughout last year coincided with yesterday's arrest of Dr Muhammad Asadullah Al Galib, chief of another Islamist militant outfit Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab), with three of his top associates in Rajshahi.
Three JMB operatives in Gaibandha and two in Rangpur and two JMJB activists in Rajshahi were also arrested yesterday in the belated crackdown on Islamist militants, particularly in the North.
Although newspapers in the last few days have revealed a long track of militant links and activities of Rajshahi University Arabic teacher Galib, police arrested him under Section 54. Police said the arrest was made on requests from three police stations in Bogra and Gopalganj, where a number of Islamist militants arrested for murder, bomb attacks and robbery had linked him with the incidents.
Sources said the government took the steps under pressure from the donors and diplomatic quarters in the wake of an alarming rise in militant attacks across the country that claimed scores of lives in the last few months.
But State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar denied any foreign pressure. "We did not receive any international pressure to ban them. The government has done it out of its sense of responsibility," he told the BBC Bangla Service last night.
However, much to the concerns of rights organisations home and abroad, political parties, civil society and media, JMJB Amir Moulana Abdur Rahman and Operations Commander Bangla Bhai are still at large.
"It has not been possible to arrest Bangla Bhai. We feel very disturbed and embarrassed for this. Though we have been putting extreme pressure on police to catch Bangla Bhai, he could not be tracked down," Babar said.
But, on January 26, this minister had told the BBC: "We have no official knowledge of the existence of JMJB. Only certain so-called newspapers have been running reports on it. We have no record that any such group has formed."
And, even after yesterday's banning of the JMJB and JMB for bomb attacks and killings, Babar claimed to the BBC Radio there is no militant organisation in the country.
"We've taken steps whenever we received such information," he said, adding the move will be on.
Announcing the ban a home ministry press note yesterday afternoon said JMJB and JMB have been carrying out a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts. It said these people have been trying to create a social unrest by misleading a group of youths misusing their religious sentiments.
A Rab press release later in the night said a huge number of police and Rab members yesterday raided different areas in Rajshahi, Bagmara upazila and Chapainawabganj districts and arrested one Shafikul Islam at Shibganj in Chapainawabganj.
In the early morning yesterday, police conducted a combing operation in two unions under Saghata upazila of Gaibandha district looking for Bangla Bhai. They raided the house of his father-in-law Ibrahim Ali at Akanderpur village in Jumarbari union and picked him up for questioning. Ali, a madrasa teacher, was released later on condition to inform police the whereabouts of Bangla Bhai.
Immediately after the ban had been announced, law forcers conducted a raid at Dhanmondi in the capital in search of Bangla Bhai. They have been raiding different city areas including Kalabagan and Kathalbagan until filing of this report 1:00am today.
With yesterday's ban, the number of banned Islamist organisations now stands at three. On February 9, 2002, the government banned Shahdat al Hiqma operating in the Rajshahi region.
Our Rajshahi correspondent reports: Police arrested Galib, his second-in command Ahab Nayeb-e-Amir Shaikh Abdus Samad Salafi, Ahab General Secretary Moulana Nurul Islam and Organising Secretary ASM Azizullah in the early hours yesterday.
Salafi is also the principal of Salafi Dakhil Madrasa run by Ahab-sponsored organisation Al Markajul Islami. Nurul Islam is a lecturer of Islamic Studies at Gangni Degree College in Meherpur district and Azizullah a librarian at Atrai Degree College of Mohonpur in Rajshahi.
Police also arrested JMJB activists Mojnur Rahman Boltu and Kurban Ali in Bagmara yesterday evening for their alleged involvement in an attack on policemen from a JMJB procession on January 24.
"ISLAMIST MOVEMENT WON'T CEASE”
"Whether we are hanged or jailed, our movement for Islam will continue", Galib told The Daily Star standing in court custody yesterday.
Reiterating that the allegations against him were made and guided by a vested quarter "either to harm our positive movement or to hide the real culprits", he claimed he and his associates were not involved in any of the charges police brought against them.
He pointed a finger at two people expelled from his organisation in 2001 for what he said was propagandising against him. "Allegations of militancy began in 2001, when we expelled two persons from our organisation," he said, naming Rezaul Karim, a professor at Bogra Azizul Haque College and RU Assistant Registrar Shafiqul Islam.
Asked about an Ahab notice in 2000, claiming it has no involvement with Qital Fee Sabilillah, an Islamist militant outfit that also aimed at an Islamic revolution, Galib merely said, "Those were not published in newspapers".
AHAB, JMB & JMJB
Three years after preparations for a Islamic revolution had begun in the country, Galib splitting from an organisation named Jomiyat-e-Ahle Hadith in 1978, when he was a student of Dhaka University, and formed Ahab's youth wing Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha (AHJS), AHJS workers said.
While forming the AHJS, Galib argued that they needed to engage in Jihad against Islamic fallacies including the mazar culture to bring an Islamic rule in the country.
Sources said Galib received funds from the Middle East through an Indian Islamist leader named Moulana Abdul Matin Salafi. In 1988 the Ershad government expelled Salafi, who had been working as a Muballig (religious preacher), for anti-state activities. Abdul Matin Salafi left a huge Saudi Arabia-originated fund to Galib.
About Abdul Matin Salafi Galib said, "He was a man whom our country needs the most. Driving him out of the country was a conspiracy."
AHJS took Rajshahi as its base after Galib had joined Rajshahi University as a lecturer in 1980 resigning his teaching job at Dhaka University. AHJS started its public activities in 1990.
The mainstream organisation Ahab was formed in late 1994 when Galib also formed its women wing, a welfare organisation named Tawhid Trust and a publication wing named Hadith Foundation Bangladesh.
At the same time the JMJB was formed and the JMB headed by Abdur Rahman started working in Dhaka with the same goal to turn the country into an Islamic state. With help from Galib, Rahman's JMB militants used the facilities of some 700 mosques built across the country by the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society. The bank accounts of the society in Pakistan were seized after the 9/11 incident.
After getting stationed in Rajshahi, Galib visited Afganistan, India and Pakistan with fake travel documents. He had close relations with Islamist militants in Kashmir. He visited India in 1998 with a business passport, for which he had to face interrogation by the Rajshahi University (RU) authorities. However, the issue has not been settled yet.
Police and intelligence sources said Ahab is just a mass platform of the JMB and most of the Ahab workers have been involved in JMB activities.
Corroborating the information, militants arrested in Thakurgaon, Joypurhat, Bogra and Natore told the police that Galib was their leader and used to meet with them at Ahle Hadith mosques.
The spiritual leader of Bangla Bhai and JMJB Amir Rahman and Ahab Amir Galib were well known to each other. Rahman studied at Madina University in Saudi Arabia at Galib's recommendation and after completing his course joined with Galib. After that he made his first public appearance in April last year in Bagmara.
Rezaul Karim, an expelled Ahab member, told The Daily Star Galib introduced him to Rahman. "I heard them discussing whether an armed struggle to stage an Islamic revolution would be viable or not."
But Galib told The Daily Star he knows Rahman as a son of an Islamic scholar and met him only once. "I never met him after he had returned from Madina University," he claimed.
LAWMAKERS TESTIFY FOR GALIB
Rajshahi City Corporation Mayor and ruling BNP lawmaker Mizanur Rahman Minu and Jamaat MP Maolana Abdul Khalek of Satkhira in two separate letters have certified that Galib does not have links with any extremists. Copies of the certificates were given to journalists at a press conference last week.
Meanwhile, the AHJS yesterday condemned and protested the arrest of Galib and other Ahab leaders and demanded their immediate release.
"Ahab and AHJS never supported any extremist movement, as Islam does not support extremism. A vested quarter is tarnishing Bangladesh's image by linking reputed Islamic personalities with extremism," said a press release signed by AHJS Office Secretary Mujaffar bin Muhsin yesterday.
Our Gaibandha correspondent reports: Police arrested three suspected JMB activists -- two in Hashembazar and another in Gobindaganj upazila -- in Gaibandha in the early hours yesterday, a day after 12 JMB militants had been arrested in three upazilas with books and booklets on Islamic revolution and copies of an Islamist magazine.
Police first arrested Harun-ur-Rashid Prodhan alias Motaleb and Rowshan Rawnakul Islam, and acting on their statement later held AKM Taibur Rahman, a jute development officer at Gobindaganj Jute Office.
After interrogating the 12 JMB operatives arrested last Tuesday, police officials yesterday said of them Habibur Rahman alias Jubayer is a regional commander of the outfit.
Our Rangpur correspondent reports: Police arrested JMB operatives Samiul Alam alias Siju and Fazlul Haque with a large number of books on Islamic revolution in Gangachara upazila in the district.
Siju is an assistant teacher at Komol Kouchua Nohali Dakhil Madrasa and Haque a dropped out madrasa student.
Police also raided the house of another suspected Islamist militant, Azharul Islam, but did not find him. However they seized a large number of books on Islamic revolution from that house.
The two arrestees admitted to have previously worked as active members of Jamaat-e-Islami's student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, said a police source, adding they came up with certain 'terrifying information'.
"They admitted that 15,000 militants are now working in greater Rangpur and Dinajpur regions to bring about an Islamic revolution under the banner of JMB," a police officer told The Daily Star on condition of anonymity.
The source hinted that Al-Haramaine, an Islamic mission active in Gangachara upazila, might have connection with the suspected militants.
The government banned Al-Haramaine, which had been carrying out missionary work funded by a Libyan donor agency, in the wake of international pressure. But the mission is still active in some areas, the source said.
A detective official, also on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the militants had a plan to blow up the Brac office in Rangpur with hand grenades bearing the words 'JMG-3'. Police are now sure that JMG stands for Jama'atul Mujahideen group.
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