Cops target 400 militants |
Abdur Rahman, Bangla Bhai top on list, grassroots network revealed
Julfikar Ali Manik
Security and intelligence agencies are out on a massive countrywide manhunt to nab some 400 leaders and activists of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) believed to be responsible for Wednesday's orchestrated bomb blasts.
JMB Chief Moulana Abdur Rahman and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) operations commander Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai top the list prepared yesterday.
Investigators said they are certain that some strong quarters within the country must have assisted the JMB in carrying out the attack. "It is also clear that JMB high-ups and masterminds behind the attacks have arranged for a tough security arrangement for themselves," said a source at the Joint Interrogation Cell (JIC).
The investigators meanwhile have extracted some significant information about the field-level activities leading to Wednesday's terror strike from 14 suspected JMB activists by grilling them at the JIC in Dhaka.
So far 123 people have been arrested, the home ministry told a press briefing yesterday afternoon. According to the ministry, 434 bombs exploded on August 17 and 51 unexploded bombs were recovered.
The ministry said 26 other arrestees from Satkhira, Feni, Kushtia, Brahmanbaria, Khulna, Khagrachhari, Cox's Bazar, Joypurhat, Tangail, Narsingdi and Jessore districts would also be brought to the capital to interrogate them at the JIC.
Field-level JMB operatives and carriers received the explosive devices on August 17 morning, only a few hours before the bombing schedule, JIC sources said quoting the 14 arrestees quizzed.
"They received their briefings on the bombing assignments on August 13, 14 and 15," a JIC source told The Daily Star.
Each carrier was briefed separately but it is not clear whether the same man briefed all the carriers of a region, as the carriers did not meet one another.
"A few of the 14 received the bombs on Wednesday from the same persons who had briefed them while the rest said they had to collect the bombs from a designated place at a specific time," said the source.
They were strictly instructed to plant the bombs at blast points designated earlier. Most of the bomb carriers also received JMB leaflets with direction to leave those at the sites.
The source said, "The carriers are also coming up with names and addresses of those who briefed them and handed them over the bombs, but it is not sure whether we will find them there. Some of them know only the names."
Two arrestees from Satkhira and one from Kushtia, who identified themselves as JMB activists, told the interrogators they knew Abdur Rahman was their leader but have not met him yet.
Asked how they came in contact with the men, who briefed them or supplied them the bombs, many of the arrestees said they had come to know them at various religious sessions.
After being sure that half a dozen of the 14 have no link with the bomb blasts, the investigators yesterday decided to release them after interrogation at the JIC.
"We will interrogate the rest again to verify their information," said one investigator. Quizzing of some fresh arrestees will also begin today.
He said no-one of the carriers admitted to taking payment for their tasks, adding, "They said they did it as part of their religious duties. In fact, they were totally motivated."
Law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies are looking for the members of the huge network of operatives of the banned Islamist militant organisation JMB and its allies involved in orchestrating the bombings across the country last Wednesday.
"As it is now quite certain that this organisation carried out the attack, we are listing all its leaders and activists and will try to trace them," said an investigator.
Sources said the investigators has already prepared a hunting list of about 400 JMB members and distributed it among the police, Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and intelligence agencies in all districts.
The list was prepared based on intelligence, confessional statements of arrested Islamist militants including JMB members and press reports. It includes top militant leaders like Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai down to grassroots members.
"We will try to trace the JMB kingpins by interrogating those of the lower planes," the investigator said.
Law enforcers are keeping a strong watch on Abdur Rahman's den and madrasa in Jamalpur. "Although some intelligence officers believe Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai are now hiding abroad, we are continuing looking for them in the country," he added.
Our Barisal correspondent reports: Police yesterday rounded up at least 25 people including college and madrasa students, teachers, Imams in and around the city, suspecting their links to the blasts.
Kabir Hossain, 35, a Jubo League cadre of Jhawtala, and Azam, 31, of Kawnia, were sent to jail as accused in the blasts cases, police sources said.
The police claimed Kabir and Azam had been arrested earlier in different criminal and arms cases.
Our Gaibandha correspondent adds: Police picked up 11 suspects in the district in the last two days and continued hunting the masterminds including Matin Mehdi, central leader of the JMB, who went into hiding soon after the blasts.
During interrogation, some admitted to being the supporters of Ahle Hadith movement, while others claimed their innocence.
The police unearthed important information about Matin Mehdi, who used several names to identify himself in different places. Matin's real name is Motiul Huq Mondol who introduced himself as Motiul Islam, Mahbub Mehdi, Matin Mehdi and Mehdi Hasan.
He formed an extremist religious group, Allah'r Dal, a few years ago and began running organisational activities in Hashem Bazar. But he soon joined the JMB and gained a central post after locals opposed his extreme speeches.
He was accused in four cases of speeches of fatwas in Bogra, Jhenidah and Gaibandha.
Our correspondent from Jessore reports: Police placed Tokai Sagar, 10, and his relative Tuhin, 15, on a three-day remand.
Tuhin was arrested in Lohagara in Narail on Thursday night following the statement of Sagar held in the town just after the blasts.
Our Dinajpur Correspondent adds: The Rab released Abdul Majid, 55, an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami, half an hour into his arrest on Friday sparking off resentment in the area.
The Rab arrested Majid when he was coming out of a Jamaat programme at Lok Bhaban in the town. The elite force also seized his cellphone and some documents, but released him, Officer-in-Charge Md Abu Bakkar Siddique said.
Our Nilphamari Correspondent reports: JMB activist Golam Mostafa, 45, arrested on Thursday in Jaldhaka upazila, has revealed important information on militant activities during interrogation, police sources said.
He is a charge-sheeted accused in a case on planting bombs at Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service, an NGO, in 2002.
Locals alleged they saw many unknown youths with Mostafa on the evening of August 16.
Nilphamari police sought help from Panchagarh police for information about the four people arrested on charge of Islamist militancy on May 15, 2003 in Panchagarh.
Seven JMJB cadres arrested in Bagmara on Thursday were sent to the JIC in Dhaka yesterday.
Our staff correspondent from Khulna adds: Over 200 leader and activists of the district unit of Ahab have gone into hiding to evade arrest.
Intelligence agencies are keeping watch on 11 mosques of the Ahle Hadith sect, while most of the mosques have been cordoned off by plainclothesmen since August 17.