Vol. 5 Num 438 Fri. August 19, 2005  
Front Page

Jama'atul tentacles spread in five and half years
Law enforcers' laid-back approach made it possible

Militants of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) spearheading an armed Islamist revolution have sprouted over the last five and a half years taking advantage of a laid-back approach of the law enforcers.

After Wednesday's series of blasts rocking the whole country, senior officials of the law enforcement agencies observe that the operatives would not have built their stronghold had the previous incidents been dealt with seriously.

Most militants were arrested only to be released on bail later to go ahead with their activities. In some cases, the incidents were not even investigated further.

Militant linchpin Asadullah Al Galib was arrested following certain pressure, but his followers JMB chief Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai are still at large.

The JMB with its antagonism to cultural functions, cinema, theatre, shrines and NGOs started spreading its network all over the country since the late 1990s with support from the Middle East.

Having come public after the BNP-Jamaat coalition assumed power, the outfit has now proved its nationwide web towards waging an armed revolution to establish what they claim "the rule of Allah".

The JMB is, however, learnt to be the youth front of the Al Mujahideen, the parent organisation that began working in the mid-1990s and still remains obscure.

Jama'atul Jihad, Jama'atul Mujahideen, Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab), Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), Harkatul Jihad, Hizbut Tawhid, Tawhidi Janata, Islami Jubo Shangha, Islami Shangha, Al Falah A'am Unnayan Shanstha and Shahadat-e al Hiqma are believed to be missions of the Al Mujahideen.

In 2003, decoded diaries of the militants stunned the investigators with information that the outfit had training stations in 57 districts with bases at the Ahle Hadith mosques and madrasas.

"They have well-equipped training stations in all the 16 northern and some southern districts, and small stations in other districts where they operate," the then inspector of Joypurhat Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Khalilur Rahman had told The Daily Star.

"If not taken care of properly now, the situation may go worse," apprehended some investigators who interrogated the arrested militants before and found their strong stance for not revealing anything.

The documents found with the militants so far, especially in Joypurhat, were never thoroughly examined although some of those carried minutes of the outfit's internal meetings, names of training centres, patrons and leaders.

Incidents left uncared

In November 2000, Jama'atul Jihad threatened two government officials, a politician and two journalists of Kalai upazila in Joypurhat over a Bogra daily's report on militant training at Chandai and Sikta madrasas.

In late 2001, unknown gunmen shot Nurul Islam Dudu, an NGO worker, and set fire to his office in Joypurhat. Police arrested four persons and seized anti-NGO leaflets and booklets on jihad.

In January 2002, a powerful time bomb was found unexploded at the Rosy Cinema Hall in Natore. On May 1, an explosion at Kiran Cinema left a schoolboy killed in Gurudaspur of the town.

The blasts of Satkhira, Mymensingh, Ramna and other places followed till August 21 and Sylhet grenade attacks.

The JMB existence came to light on May 20, 2002 when police nabbed eight militants in Parbatipur of Dinajpur with 25 petrol bombs and documents. The eight were later released on bail and the investigation was stalled as the case documents went missing in a "mysterious" fire at the Parbatipur PS in 2003.

On March 11, 2003, police held five militants and seized explosives, books on commando training, and bomb-making tools from a training camp in the frontier town of Chapainawabganj.

Seven bombs went off one after another inside a tin-shed house in Chhoto Gurgola in Dinajpur town on February 13, 2003, leaving militant Badal dead and two others injured while they were making bombs.

Police found four pistols, several hundred bullets, bomb-making equipment and other documents. One of the documents read: "Shaikh [sir], we are in need of the list of muadkars [fighter-members] that was given to you."

Two militant suspects Habibur Rahman alias Shafiqul Islam and Faruk Hossain, both teachers of Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqa (Rh) Salafia Islamia Girls' Madrasa in the area, were arrested.

On April 15, police arrested seven youths for writing jihad slogans on a government building and seized JMB leaflets. Masudur Rahman, one of the seven, was arrested again on August 14, 2003 after looting three firearms, 60 bullets and a wireless set from the police in Joypurhat. Six policemen were injured in the incident.

Police found covert links between the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh and some of the 38 arrested operatives.

Later, police also found a revolver loaded with Pakistan-made bullet suggesting their links with the Pakistan-based extremists.

Twenty-three militants, all men of both Galib and Bangla Bhai, were held with combative materials from training camps in Natore in February and July this year.