Vol. 5 Num 625 Thu. March 02, 2006  
Front Page

Secret lies with Rahman
Believe agencies, investigators; 3 out of 7 Shura members caught so far

Intelligence agencies and investigators believe the mystery behind the ris e of militancy, spreading of its network and links both in and outside the country could be revealed only after JMB kingpin Abdur Rahman is arrested.

So far, three of the seven-member Majlis-e-Shura (top decision making body) of the JMB -- Abdul Awal Sarker, Ataur Rahman Sunny and Hafez Mahmud -- have been arrested, but none of them could reveal a total picture of the banned militant group or their external and internal links.

Following the ban on Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), the law enforcers primarily concentrated on arresting JMJB operations chief Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai. They did not focus on Shaekh Abdur Rahman until the August 17 countrywide bombings although he organised both the JMB and JMJB networks across the country quite openly.

Following the August 17 attack, the investigators said the mystery would be revealed once they can arrest some of the seven members of Majlish-e-Shura, top decision making body of the JMB.

However, after arresting three Shura members, the investigators claimed the three failed to provide the expected information saying they did not know much about the JMB network and its functioning. The arrested referred Rahman as controlling the network.

Two Shura members--Rahman's son-in-law Abdul Awal Sarker alias Ashiq alias Adil alias Arafat, and his younger brother Ataur Rahman alias Sunny alias Sajid--were arrested at the end of 2005. The law enforcers held the other--Rakib Hasan alias Hafez Mahmud--last Tuesday.

Acting on intelligence information and Hafez's confession, the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) on Tuesday night cordoned off the JMB chief's house at East Shaplabagh in Sylhet and has been trying to convince Rahman to surrender.

Nine family members of Rahman, including his wife Nurjahan Begum alias Rupa, daughter Afifa Rahman and sons Fuad and Ahmed, surrendered yesterday, but Rahman told the law enforcers that he would rather commit suicide than surrendering.

Lieutenant Colonel Gulzar Uddin Ahmed, Rab intelligence wing chief leading the Sylhet operation, yesterday afternoon told The Daily Star over telephone that they were taking time before breaking into the house because they want to arrest Rahman alive. "We don't want him to get injured in any way since he has threatened to commit suicide," he said.

Investigators had earlier expected that the arrest of Awal and Sunny would greatly help them to dig into the militant issue, but the two Shura members did not disclose any information beyond their responsibilities and roles in the August 17 bomb attack.

The investigators came to learn that the JMB chief was responsible for the entire operation while Sunny was in charge of Dhaka region, Awal of greater Rajshahi, Bangla Bhai of Chittagong, Hafez Mahmud of Khulna, Salahuddin alias Salehin of Sylhet, and Faruq Hossain alias Khaled Saifullah alias Shaikh Tariq of Rangpur-Dinajpur regions.

Quoting Sunny, an intelligence officer who interrogated him said he only disclosed the JMB's organisational structure and details of the bomb attacks since August 17. Sunny also told that the seven-member Majlish-e-Shura decided to carry out the countrywide bomb attacks at a meeting in Rajshahi in March last year. He disclosed how explosives were smuggled in and bombs were made and that Rahman and Khaled Saifullah trained them up on bomb-making.

The investigators believe the JMB chief and Saifullah learnt bomb-making in Afghanistan when they visited the country during Taliban regime. They also became sure that Saifullah had been a leader of Harkatul Jihad al Islami (HuJi) Bangladesh before he joined JMB.

About JMB funds, Sunny told the law enforcers that most of it comes from individual donations and Zakat.

On condition of anonymity some investigators said what they could not know from Sunny are JMB's foreign links, fund support and involvement of local quarters.

What Sunny confessed before a magistrate in Dhaka is that two British militant leaders--Abdur Rahman and Sajjad--provided the JMB 10,000 for carrying out the bomb attacks.

The investigators, however, believe that the militant organisation definitely enjoys support from some "third party" in and outside the country.

In an interview with The Daily Star in May 2004, Shaekh Rahman said he runs the Al-Madina Islamic Cadet Madrasa and a mosque in Jamalpur. Saudi Arabian NGO Rabeta-e-Islam and controversial Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society provided him with the financial assistance to establish those institutions.

Awal also did not disclose any information other than his own role in the organisation. Nothing could be learnt from Hafez Mahmud as the Rab is presently concentrating on arresting Rahman alive.

According to Sunny, the JMB started planning bomb attacks in mid-2002 to establish Islamic rule in the country. As the government banned the JMB and JMJB on February 23 last year, they reached a hasty decision in March to start the bomb attacks from August.

A top-level investigator told The Daily Star that he believes the militants had a different objective behind the bomb attacks other than establishing Islamic rule in Bangladesh although it could not be learnt from any of the arrested.

After the August 17 attacks, the investigators received information at different times about all the Shura members except Bangla Bhai.

The investigators are also looking for militant leaders Hafiz and Hazari, who acted as Shura members after the JMB was formed in 1998 but did not continue for long.