JMB chief Abdur Rahman pinned down |
Wife, daughter, 3 sons, grandson, activist's wife, maid smoked out of Sylhet den; Rahman demands to talk with Babar, threatens to commit suicide rather than giving in; 'explosives' seen through drilled hole in roof
Julfikar Ali Manik and Shamim Ashraf with Iqbal Siddiqui
Militant kingpin Abdur Rahman, pinned down by law enforcers at an East Shaplabagh hideout in Sylhet City since Tuesday night, refused to surrender as at 1:30am today.
While altercating with the blockading law enforcers led by Rapid Action Battalion at 4:00am yesterday, the Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh supremo said he would rather commit suicide than surrender.
Lashing out at the police operation, Rahman, called Shaekh or spiritual leader by his followers in reverence, said he would not talk with anyone except State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar and asked the law enforcers to contact him.
After that exchange of words at 4:00am, he made no further response to the law enforcers, who went on asking him to surrender again and again.
However, his wife Nurjahan Begum Rupa, daughter Afifa Rahman, three sons and a grandson came out of the house with the poetic name Surya Dighal Bari yesterday noon and surrendered to the police. The raiding party later persuaded Nurjahan into requesting her husband to surrender, but to no avail.
The JMB chief, who has a Tk 50 lakh bounty on his head, warned he has a large number of powerful explosives in his possession. Eight explosions were also heard from the house, but it could not be known whether there was any casualty.
Rab intelligence chief Lt Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed told The Daily Star last night they reckon two JMB operatives, identified later as Moijul and Hanif, were with Rahman in the house.
Over a thousand-strong force drawn from Rab, Bangladesh Rifles and the police was besieging the house. The law enforcers also had been trying to flush out the Islamist militant linchpin and his accomplices by streaming water and lobbing teargas shells into the house through a hole drilled in the roof until 8:00pm.
Rab sources said in the beam of a flashlight through that hole they saw a network of wires coming out of two bags placed behind two doors. They suspect the entire house is probably booby-trapped. They also saw something wrapped in a quilt on a bed but were not sure whether it was a man or an explosive device.
At quarter to midnight, Rab Director General Abdul Aziz Sarker told The Daily Star over telephone that they would refrain from breaking into the house at night. They want to do it in daylight.
Thousands of locals thronged the area and gathered around the sealed-off place to witness the imminent arrest of the mastermind behind all the bomb attacks in the country since the August 17 near-simultaneous bomb strikes across the country last year.
OPERATION SURYA DIGHAL BARI
Acting on intelligence and confessions of arrested JMB Majlish-e-Shura member and Khulna regional chief Rakib Hasan alias Hafez Mahmud, Rab members launched simultaneous combing operations in search of Rahman's hideout in Tilagarh, Shaplabagh, Brahmanpara, Mirapara and Kalashil areas in the north-eastern divisional city at around 8:30 Tuesday night.
Split into several teams, the Rab forces started searching every house in the areas in the dark of the night.
When a Rab team knocked at Surya Dighal Bari, a single-storey house in East Shaplabagh Road 2, at around 9:00pm, no response came from inside. Smelling a rat, the Rab team returned to the house after searching 40 other houses in the area and knocked at its front door again.
Finding no response once again, some Rab troopers scaled the gate and jumped onto the compound at around 12:30am yesterday.
All of a sudden, a man in his 30's appeared in a grilled veranda brandishing a sword. He shouted 'Naraye Takbir' and then quickly disappeared into the house.
The Rab team then called in additional forces and cordoned off the area. The Rab members enquired of the neighbours about the owner and tenants of the house. When the locals told them that the landlord lives abroad, they became even more certain that it was the very house they had been looking for.
The other Rab teams also rushed to the spot and took position around the house, while several teams were stationed at some points to seal off the area.
At around 1:00am, Gulzar Ahmed started asking Rahman over a megaphone to surrender, while Rab troopers kept their guns pointed at the house.
"Abdur Rahman, come out and surrender. We're not your enemy. Come out. We won't do any harm to you. We'll ensure your safety and security," the repeated Rab announcement reverberated in the dead of the night.
But Rahman shouted from inside that he would not come out. "Don't call me by my name," he rebuked at the top of his voice, because, "I'm a mujahid [who fights for Islam]."
At one point, Rahman even started preaching, saying the Rab members have deviated from the true path of Islam. He asked them to do Taoba [admit and repent their wrongs] and return to the fold of the "true faith".
"This state system is wrong," he adjudged and urged the law enforcers to "Come back to the path of Islam."
The so-called Shaekh said those who live in brothels are also mothers and sisters of some people and added: "You're looking after them and thus assisting in the violations of their self. This is how the rule of this country is."
"You don't fight these rules. On the contrary, you announced a bounty of Tk 10 lakh on the head of an innocent child and have come armed to claim it," Rahman went on.
After about an hour of such preaching, he finally stopped.
As the Rab men again urged him to surrender, the JMB chief said they were trying in vain, adding, "Our victory is certain. Don't think it'll be easy to capture me. Don't think we are weak. We've jihadis even in Rab and the police."
Warning that there are powerful bombs in their possession, Rahman said, "It won't be easy to capture us alive. If necessary, we'll explode the bombs."
"We don't believe in surrendering to anyone except Allah," he declared.
At around 4:00am, Rahman demanded to talk with the state minister for home affairs. "I don't want to talk to you. Arrange for me to talk with the minister," he told the Rab.
The Rab members then urged him to give in considering the welfare of his family. But Rahman made no response.
The law enforcers took position on the rooftops of the adjacent buildings and instructed the locals to stay indoors. They cut the gas supply to the house at 9:00am and the power supply half an hour later.
Sounds of three small explosions came from the house at around 8:00am and two others at 9:15am.
Sylhet City Mayor Badruddin Kamran and Deputy Commissioner of the district SM Faisal Alam also tried their hands several times at persuading the JMB top gun into surrendering talking over a bullhorn, assuring him of security and proper legal assistance.
Three crackers exploded at 12:30pm, when Rahman's wife Rupa, whom some media channels mentioned as Ayesha Rahman, was coming out of the house with her two-year-old son Ahmed in her lap. Rab escorted the two to a tent set up nearby.
Later, Rahman's daughter Afifa Rahman with her four-month-old child Talha, his sons Mahmud alias Ashraf and Fuad, the wife and a child of a JMB activist, and a nine-year-old domestic help emerged from the house. But, Rahman's eldest son Nabil alias Tanveer was not among them. Afifa is married to Abdul Awal, JMB Majlish-e-Shura member and northern regional chief, who is now in police custody.
All except the minor ones were handcuffed and Rab took them to Rab-9 headquarters.
In the afternoon, Rab brought back Rahman's wife in front of the house and made her request her husband to surrender. "Come out, they've given complete assurance of safety and legal assistance," she told the fanatic leader over a bullhorn, but to no response.
ATTEMPTS TO DEFUSE EXPLOSIVES
Firemen were called in. They streamed water into the house through the windows in the afternoon in a bid to defuse the explosives. They also tried to breach a wall to get a better inlet.
In the evening, the firemen drilled a hole in the roof to pour water into the house. Rab sources said through that hole they saw a network of wires across the house coming out of two bags near the doors in two rooms, which they suspected to be booby traps. They also saw a quilt-wrapped object on a bed but were not sure whether it was a man or an explosive device.
Rab Additional Director General Mahbub Mollah told The Daily Star, "We're giving him time and scope to surrender, as we want to capture him alive."
The raiding party also lobbed tear gas shells into the house to flush Rahman and his companions out.
On January 2, one Hridoy Chowdhury rented the house from Mainul Haque, brother of the landlord, Abdul Haque, who lives in the UK. Law enforcers arrested Mainul yesterday.
He rented the house to Hridoy according to the recommendation of Tultikor Union Parishad Member Nurunnabi alias Deshi, Mainul told Rab.
Rahman's wife told Rab that she used to stay confined to a room and would not go out, as she maintained purdah strictly. "I don't know what has been kept in the other rooms."
However, she said two JMB activists were in the house with Rahman, but she did not know who they were, as she had never seen them face to face.
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