Vol. 5 Num 630 Tue. March 07, 2006  
Front Page

Tyrant Bangla Bhai finally captured
Wounded by his own bomb; flown to Dhaka; wife held; clues from Sylhet militant led to the raid

Bangla Bhai, the tyrant who once spread Islamic militancy with the administration's protection, was captured wounded yesterday from a remote Mymensingh hideout after skirmishes with the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab).

As the splinter-hit and explosive-burned militant top gun was carted along the rutted roads of Rampur village in Muktagachha, the curtain dropped on his reign of terror in the northern Bangladesh where he killed and tortured scores amid the government's denial about his existence.

Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai was flown to Dhaka by a helicopter and admitted to BDR Hospital after treatment at Mymensingh Medical College Hospital. Despite having splinter wounds in the abdomen and burns almost all over his body, his condition is now stable, the state minister for home said.

Bangla Bhai's arrest came four days after the dramatic surrender of JMB supremo Shaekh Abdur Rahman. Five months ago the government announced Tk 50 lakh bounty on the head of Bangla Bhai, the operations commander of banned Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB).

The Rab intelligence team and Rab-9 rushed to Mymensingh in the early hours yesterday and captured Bangla Bhai's wife Fahima and minor son Saad from a house on RK Mission Road in the town at about 5:00am.

Acting on her information, the Rab men led by its intelligence wing chief Lt Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed encircled the house of a village doctor Umed Ali at Rampur in Muktagachha, 30 kilometres off Mymensingh, at about 7:00am and started searching for Bangla Bhai.

As Rab Sergeant Rafiq, who was posted in an adjacent tin-roofed house, tried to peep into the room to see who were inside, Bangla Bhai shot him once in the head with a submachine carbine. The Rab men then took the wounded sergeant away to safety.

"When Bangla Bhai hit Sergeant Rafiq, our runner Sattar identified him [Bangla Bhai] and raised an alarm," Commander Mahsuk Hasan, Rab media wing chief, told reporters at Mymensingh.

At this point Rab intelligence wing chief Lt Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed asked Bangla Bhai on a loudhailer to surrender saying that Rab has encircled the whole area. "Bangla Bhai, you have no way to escape. It will be better for you to surrender," Gulzar said.

A couple of minutes after Bangla Bhai attacked Sergeant Rafiq, a powerful bomb went off inside the tin-roofed room where Bangla Bhai was staying. The explosion destroyed the roof and a corner of the room caught fire.

"While the room was burning, we saw Bangla Bhai at the windows," Lt Col Gulzar told reporters. "Then I again asked him to surrender...I told him that we'll be forced to open fire since he has injured our man."

As the injured militant leader asked Rab to douse the fire, the Rab men told him to come out first. "We put pressure on him to surrender and he had no other alternative," said Gulzar. "We told him to throw away his firearm."

Finally Bangla Bhai, in trousers and black T-shirt, came out of the house at around 7:30am and the Rab men took him into their custody. Injury marks were seen in his left hand and lower abdomen. His beard and hair were burned.

Bangla Bhai's bodyguard Masud was found lying badly injured in the explosion.

The whole house was burned and only the pillars were standing amidst the debris. "The bomb exploded inside the house, but we cannot say whether he tried to commit suicide," Gulzar told The Daily Star.

Sources said JMB Shura member Salahuddin, now absconding, had arranged the Muktagachha house for Bangla Bhai.

After the operation, the Rab men extinguished the fire with the help of locals.

Injured Rab Sergeant Rafiq was in the meantime flown in the capital by a helicopter and admitted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH).

The Rab men recovered a sub-machine carbine, its magazine, one foreign-made pistol, one machete, a knife, four batteries, torchlight and a cellphone set from the burned house. They also seized two locally-made revolvers, six bullets, four knives, two rifle bullets, one live bomb and two machetes from a hole adjacent to the house.

Rab sources said they would file three cases -- one under Arms Act, another under Explosives Substance Act and the third for assaulting the law enforcers.

The Rab men handcuffed the militant leader and took him to Muktagachha Hospital where he was given first aid. Then Bangla Bhai and Masud were taken away from the spot by a rickshaw-van. The Rab vehicles were waiting at Battola, five kilometres off Rampur.

The two injured militants were taken in a Rab car to the MMCH where doctors operated on Bangla Bhai at 11:30am. His bodyguard Masud with a severely burned arm and injuries all over the body was treated at the same hospital.

While the infamous militant leader was undergoing operation, the Rab men took his wife to the hospital. And she identified her husband.

The doctors after checking his pulse and blood pressure said his health condition is stable. "At one stage, he started telling his past at the operation theatre," Dr Mohammad Ali Siddiqui, who operated on him there, told reporters at the hospital.

After the surgery, Bangla Bhai was taken to Mymensingh Circuit House. A helicopter of Air Force came from the capital and left for Dhaka with Bangla Bhai and others at 1:15pm.

The Rab men were on a manhunt on information extracted from Abdur Rahman, his brother Ataur Rahman Sunny and son-in-law Abdul Awal, who are now being quizzed together by Task Force Intelligence in Dhaka. Besides, they got important clues from Bangla Bhai's close aide Amanullah who was arrested by Rab-9 in Sylhet Sunday night.

Lt Col Gulzar told The Daily Star that Hanif, who was arrested with Rahman on Thursday in Sylhet, had told them that Amanullah had vital information about Bangla Bhai's whereabouts.

As they found Amanullah's information substantiated those extracted from others, the Rab intelligence wing became certain about Bangla Bhai's wife's location in Mymensingh and probable location of the militant leader in Muktagachha.

"We first captured his wife from Mymensingh town. Talking with her, we became sure that Bangla Bhai is staying at Rampur in Muktagachha," said Gulzar.

Rab had nabbed Amanullah Rimon, 19, hailing from Trishal in Mymensingh, from a house at Srirampur in Sylhet Sadar uapzial at about 3:30am.

One Chan Mia is the owner of the Muktagachha house where Bangla Bhai was staying. Rab officials said Bangla Bhai shifted there immediately after Abdur Rahman's arrest.

They said Fahima, Bangla Bhai's wife, had been staying in RK Mission Road house for about three months. The house is a hideout of absconding JMB Shura member Salahuddin. Fahima told interrogators that she did not meet Bangla Bhai for about one month.

Bangla Bhai, who used to introduce himself as Azizur Rahman and Omar Ali Litu while conducting militant operations in the northern region in the name of outlaw cleansing, started his activities openly with direct patronage from local administration, police and some ruling party lawmakers and ministers in April 2004.

Bangla Bhai and his men killed 22 people and maimed and tortured over 300 in its vigilante operation in the northern region from April to July 2004. He went into hiding on May 23, a week after the government ordered his arrest. But he continued to lead his militant organisation from hideouts.

Although newspapers published series of reports on JMJB killing and torture, the government denied the reports and blamed newspapers for 'creating fictitious character'. National and international human rights bodies strongly decried the government inertia in taking action against Bangla Bhai and other JMJB leaders.

Even the government top brass denied the existence of Bangla Bhai. Jamaat--e-Islami Ameer and Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami accused newspapers of having links with Bangla Bhai, questioning how could newspapers publish his exclusive interviews without having any relations with him.

Even after the prime minister ordered arrest of Bangla Bhai, law enforcers did not comply it and rather assisted Bangla Bhai to carry out his vigilante action.

With the arrest of Bangla Bhai, the second top man of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which claimed responsibilities for the serial bombings since August 17 last year, five members of JMB's Majlish-e-Shura have been captured.

Before capturing Rahman and Bangla Bhai, the law enforcers had arrested JMB Shura members Ataur Rahman Sunny, Abdul Awal and Hafez Mahmud. The rest two members --Salahuddin, JMB's in-charge of Sylhet-Mymensingh region, and Khaled Saifullah, responsible for Rangpur-Dinajpur region -- are still on the run.

Inspector General of Police Abdul Quayum yesterday said the law enforcers raided 40 places across the country on Sunday night to arrest Bangla Bhai.

"Rab and police have been working for several months to arrest top militant leaders and Bangla Bhai's arrest is a success that came after their relentless efforts. It's not a success that came in one day," he told reporters yesterday.

As the information of Bangla Bhai's capture spread, hundreds of people from nearby villages rushed to Rampur. The cheerful crowd stood on the rooftops of houses, trees and both sides of the road as the militant leader was being taken away from the spot.

In Mymensingh town, hundreds of people came out of their houses, offices and shops to have a glimpse of notorious criminal Bangla Bhai and kept on clapping as the Rab men were taking him to the MMCH in a motorcade.

Defying law enforcers' barricade, curious people forced into the MMCH when Bangla Bhai and his bodyguard were taken to the hospital.

Rab men, reporters, photographers and cameramen of local and national newspapers and electronic media even entered the operating theatre.

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Left: Wounded Bangla Bhai in handcuffs soon after arrest in Muktagachha in Mymensingh; top right Rab guarding his blown-up hideout; middle right Rab men check his seized arms; and bottom right one of his injured aides. Photo: star/TV grab