Vol. 5 Num 447 Sun. August 28, 2005  
Front Page

Inside the Militant Groups-7
Profiles show them interlinked
Abdur Rahman spawned all

The confessions of the recent arrestees, intelligence reports and information gathered so far indicate most of the recent attacks on NGOs and cultural programmes and bomb blasts in the country, including that of August 17, were carried out under the leadership of Abdur Rahman.

The Daily Star investigation reveals that most militant organisations across the country are somehow woven in the same string, which points finger at Rahman.

The Daily Star has compiled brief profiles of Rahman and the seven militant organisations that have been running anti-state activities over the last decade.

Shaikh Abdur Rahman of Chorshi village in Jamalpur district is the mastermind of the August 17 series bomb blasts across the country. His father Abdullah Ibn Fazal was a notorious collaborator of the Pakistani army during the Liberation War. As a student Abdur Rahman joined the Islamic Chhatra Shangha (present Islami Chhatra Shibir), the student front of Jamaat-e-Islam, Bangladesh (JIB).

Rahman graduted from an Ahle Hadith madrasa in Jamalpur and later, as a son of a leading JIB leader, was sent to Saudi Arabia at party expenses for higher education at Madina University. On completion of his studies there, Abdur Rahman returned home and tried different trades and jobs. But his main portfolio was to work as an interpreter and translator. He has reportedly travelled India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other countries.

In course of his job as a translator Abdur Rahman came in close contact with many diplomatic representatives from Middle Eastern countries. He went to Afghanistan to be inducted into jihadi movement. Completing the training, he returned to Bangladesh and formed the terrorist cell, Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB).

Although JMB was formed in Jamalpur, it runs its terrorist activities in the North Bengal region. Rahman's relatives in Dinajpur and Rajshahi districts helped him expand his organisational activities in these districts.

In early 2002, the first conference of the JMB commanders was held at Khetlal in Joypurhat. At that time, local police arrested 17 terrorists, including Rahman's younger brother Ataur Rahman, in connection with terrorist activities. Following this incident the JMB commanders went underground and extended their terrorist activities around the country. After an accidental blast in Dinajpur, Abdur Rahman built his permanent headquarters in Rajshahi town and formed the so-called Bangla Bahini, with its leader Siddik Ullah as his key associate.

Abdur Rahman also gave a public speech at a gathering at a local school ground. He also published a manifesto of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) as the public front of JMB.

Abdur Rahman is reported to have worked at the Saudi embassy in Dhaka between 1985 and 1990.

In an interview with The Daily Star on May 12, 2004, Rahman said, "We are called part of al-Qaeda, Taliban or Islamist militant organisation. But we are not like that. We would like to serve people in line with Hilful Fuzul [a social organisation founded by Prophet Mohammad (SM) to serve the destitute]."

He says his organisation is against the use of force. Nor does it want to go to power as a political party through elections. "If people of Bangladesh give us the responsibility of running the nation, we will accept it."

Profiles of 7 Islamist outfits

Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was launched in 1998. Activists of the militant organisation believe in capturing power through armed revolution and running the country by establishing Islamic rule by a Majlish-e-Shura.

One of the objectives of the organisation is to rid Muslims of the influence of "anti-Islam forces" and practices that brought women out of their houses. The JMB activists carry out bomb blasts at cinemas, jatra functions, fairs, meetings and rallies.

Leaders: Shaikh Abdur Rahman is the "spritual" leader of the organisation while Ahab chief and Rajshahi University teacher Dr Asadulla Al Galib is also one of its policy makers. Moulana Akram-uzzaman, Abdur Rouf, Moulana Shahidul Islam, Moulana Mahadi, Shaikh Moulana Noman, Moulana Manjur Ahmed are other JMB front liners. Most of these leaders were trained in Afghanistan.

Funds and activities: Ahab followers and the teachers and students of Kwami madrasas collect tolls regularly for running the organisation. Besides, they get fund from local patrons and donors in Middle Eastern countries. They procure arms and explosives from international rackets.

During interrogation at the Joint Interrogation Cell (JIC), several arrested JMB men told police that the Ahab operatives and Kwami madrasa students are carrying out militant activities across the country.

The JMB leaders and activists energise their followers for jihad with motivational speeches, statements, leaflets and graffiti across the country.

After a bomb blast at a mess house in Dinajpur town on February 13, 2003, police arrested three JMB men with plastic explosives, three shutter guns and one revolver along with JMB publications.

Police arrested eight JMB members with 25 petrol bombs and documents on guerrilla warfare in Parbatipur upazila in Dinajpur on May 20, 2003.

When police went to Maheshpur village in Joypurhat on information that JMB activists were receiving training there on the night of August 14, 2003, the JMB men opened fire on the law enforcers and snatched away three shotguns, bullets and a wireless set.

So far 64 men arrested in the last two years admitted that they are JMB activists.

The statements of them and the seized arms and documents prove that some JMB members took arms training abroad and some of them are experts in bomb making.

Saying that the JMB propaganda and criminal activities have tarnished Bangladesh's image and characterised it as a fundamentalist state, the intelligence agencies suggested in 2003 a ban on JMB activities. The government finally banned the JMB on February 23 this year.


Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), an Islamist vigilante outfit that espouses Taliban ideals, was formed in 1998. It first came to limelight on April 1, 2004 when it made attempts to unlawfully free the country's northwestern region from the Maoist outlaws.

While a section of the Bangladeshi media has indicated that the JMJB is an outgrowth of the Islamist militant outfit JMB, reports are there that it is a youth front of the militant group Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami known as Huji.

Objectives and ideology: The JMJB follows the ideals of the Taliban militia and propagates a movement based on jihad. Its chief Abdur Rahman says, "Our model involves many leaders and scholars of Islam. But we will take as much ideology from the Talibans as we need."

The JMJB leaders have often publicly stated that they do not subscribe to the existing political system of Bangladesh and that the JMJB will "build a society based on the Islamic model laid out in the Holy Qur'an and Hadith."

JMJB's agenda is the neutralisation of the left-wing extremists, especially the Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) cadres.

Leadership and organisation: Moulana Abdur Rahman is the self-styled ameer (chief) of JMJB while Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai alias Azizur Rahman alias Omar Ali Litu is the operations commander.

Bangla Bhai claims the outfit has 300,000 activists and about 10,000 full-time activists across the country and spends up to Tk 7 lakh on them a month.

The highest decision-making body of the JMJB is a seven-member Majlish-e-Shura (central council). Apart from Rahman and Bangla Bhai, the council includes Ashiqur Rahman, Hafez Mahmud, Tarek Moni and Khaled as its members.

Bangla Bhai who hails from Bogra said when he was a college student, he joined the Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. He claimed he quit the ICS in 1995.

The JMJB is a three-tier organisation -- the first tier consists of activists, called Ehsar, recruited on a full-time basis and act at the behest of the higher echelons. The second tier, Gayeri Ehsar, has over 100,000 part-time activists. The third tier involves those who indirectly co-operate with the outfit.

The whole country has been divided into nine organisational divisions. Khulna, Barisal, Sylhet and Chittagong have one organisational divisional office each, while Dhaka has two divisional offices and Rajshahi three.

Areas of activity: The JMJB is reported to have created strong bases mostly in northwestern districts of Rajshahi, Naogaon, Joypur-hat, Natore, Rangpur, Bogra and the southern districts of Bagerhat, Jessore, Satkhira, Chittagong and Khulna. But it has network in 57 districts mainly spreading to mad-rasas and educational institutions.

The outfit has also established at least 10 camps at Atrai and Raninagar in Naogaon, Bagmara in Rajshahi, and Naldanga and Singra in Natore.

There are reports that the JMJB recruits are being trained through recorded speeches of Osama bin Laden and video footages of warfare training at the al-Qaeda's Farooque Camp (now defunct) in Afghanistan.

Although some JMJB leaders have reportedly stated that the outfit's headquarter is in Dhaka they declined to give any specific location.

Linkages: JMJB's international linkages could not be known much, but Moulana Rahman in an interview on May 13 last year said, "We don't have links with any foreign organisation." He claimed not to have direct links with the Taliban either.

Reports indicate that the JMJB is supported and patronised by a section of leaders and activists of the ruling BNP. Deputy Minister for Land Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu has allegedly patronised the outfit.

Moulana Rahman allegedly secured help from Saudi charities to build mosques and seminaries across the country.

Activities: The JMJB activists are reported to have carried out over 100 operations, including murders and attacks on people they believe to be criminals, in different regions.

Its cadres reportedly force local youths to keep beards, wear clothes up to the ankle, and the women to wear veils. They also forced to stop playing music at hotels and restaurants in the northwestern region.

The government banned the JMJB on February 23 this year.

The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Huji), established reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden, came to focus in 1992.

Abdur Rahman Faruqi was leading the Bangladesh chapter of Huji, but he died while removing mine in Afghanistan in 1989. Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid now leads Huji with Imtiaz Quddus as its general secretary.

Objectives & ideology: The Huji, inspired by bin Laden and the erstwhile Taliban regime of Afghanistan, aims at launching a jihad to unite the Muslim world and establish Islamic Hukumat (rule) in Bangla-desh, freeing it from the aggression and influence of the West and East.

Areas of activity: The southeastern coastal belt stretching from Chittagong through Cox's Bazar to the Myanmar border is the prime area of activity of the Huji.

The organisation reportedly maintained six camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, giving arms and explosive training to its cadres. According to unconfirmed reports, there are six more Huji training camps near Cox's Bazar.

The Chittagong-Cox's Bazar coastal belt is infamous for piracy, smuggling and gunrunning and the Huji operatives may have links with these activities, many believe.

Its cadres allegedly infiltrate frequently into the bordering eastern region of India to maintain contacts with terrorist outfits of the region.

It could not be known where the headquarters or other offices of the Huji Bangladesh chapter are.

Strategy and cadres: The Huji has two sections. The activists of jihad section are those who train up Huji activists to prepare them for the jihad and assist Muslims fighting anywhere in the world.

The dawat and irshad sections publish and distribute books, booklets and leaflets, organise seminars and conferences to motivate people.

It has around 15,000 members in Bangladesh, including local residents and foreigners. Rohingya refugees from Mynamar residing in different camps in Cox's Bazar constitute a significant portion of the Huji cadres.

The organisation also recruits cadres from students of various madrasas, most of which are financed by Arab charities.

Linkages: A large number of volunteers went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to assist the Mujahideen fighting against the Soviet army. After returning home, the Bangladeshi Mujahideen tried to launch a fundamentalist movement in the country and most of them later joined Huji.

Mufti Abdul Hannan, the prime accused in the plot to assassinate former prime minister Sheikh Hasina on July 20, 2000, was reportedly trained in Peshawar, Pakistani, and sent to Afghanistan to fight the Soviet army. After the recovery of a diary of Hannan's brother, the Huji is believed to have links with Pakistan also.

Finance: There are reports that Huji receives financial assistance from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan through several Islamist NGOs operating in Bangladesh, including Adarsha Kutir, Al Faruk Islamic Foundation, and Hataddin.

Activities: On February 19, 1996, army and police arrested 41 Huji men receiving arms training at a Cox's Bazar camp.

Three Huji activists attempted to kill eminent poet Shamsur Rahman on January 18, 1999 but failed. The law-enforcers also found Huji's involvement in a number of incidents, including the killing of journalist Shamsur Rahman on July 16, 2000, in Jessore. Police interrogations of the arrested Huji cadres revealed that Huji had planned to kill 28 prominent intellectuals.

Huji has been accused of plotting twice to assassinate Sheikh Hasina in the year 2000. Law-enforcers recovered a 76-kg bomb from Kotalipara in Gopalganj where Hasina was scheduled to visit on July 20, 2000.

Key suspect in the plot Mufti Hannan allegedly manufactured the explosives at his soap factory Sonar Bangla Chemical Industries Ltd in Gopalganj.

Saying that Huji, presently working secretly, may emerge any moment, intelligence agencies advised the government two years ago to ban it.

Shahadat Al Hiqma was launched on December 29, 1996, but it started activities openly in early 2001 under the banner of an NGO. In the Al Hiqma publications, Bangladesh's Liberation War has been termed a "terrorist activity."

Setting up their "NGO office" beside Kashiabhanga bypass in Rajshahi, the Al Hiqma men first allured the educated unemployed youths to join the organisation, promising them jobs.

Strategy: Hiqma believes "firearms are the only way to eradicate injustice." Its arrested leader Shamim Uddin admitted that they had mentioned in their leaflets about the formation of a special branch named "intelligence fighters".

Extremist connections: The names of five Islamist groups--Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Towhidi Janata, Iqra Islami Jote, Juma'atul al Sadat and Biswa Islami Front, all involved in extremist activities --have been found in the Al Hiqma leaflets.

These organisations have spread their network mainly in the northern region and Comilla and Jamalpur districts, maintaining contact among themselves through different NGOs and voluntary organisations for training and fund.

Al Hiqma has alleged contracts with Kashmir-based Islamist extremist group Laskar-e-Taiyaba and Nepal-based Maoist organisations for arms training and sharing of strategies, admitted several arrested Hiqma members, including Shamim.

He also said Dubai-based Indian godfather Daud Ibrahim provides him with funds.

Activities: Financed by JMB and Towhidi Janata, Al Hiqma launched "Hiqma Jihad" activities in Rajshahi in 1998 under the banner of Biswa Islamic Front.

Self-styled Chairman of Al Hiqma Syed Kawser Hossain Siddiqi at a press conference on February 8, 2003 in Rajshahi announced that some cabinet members were with him. He numbered his activists to be about 36,000.

Although the government banned Al Hiqma the next day, they are still continuing their activities in the northern region.

After being arrested three times, Kawser is now in jail.

Mohammad Bayezid Khan Ponni alias Selim Ponni of Karotia, Tangail founded Hizbut Towhid (HT) in 1994. Ponni's followers call him "Imam", placing him just behind the prophets.

Office and network: Ponni's house (No 4 on road-18) in Uttara Sector-7 in Dhaka has been used as HT head office. Besides, one Selim Clinic on the ground floor of a four-storeyed building on New Iskatan Road is also used as its office.

Barisal, Feni, Kushtia, Madari-pur, Tangail, Gazipur, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Noakhali, Khulna, Chittagong and Narshingdi are the areas of HT activities.

Activities: The HT chief, who left the country after the independence and returned in the '80s, published a book titled "This Islam is not at all Islam" in March 1996, which the government banned on May 10, 1998. Ponni challenged the ban but the matter is yet to be resolved.

He also published some booklets and leaflets on HT ideologies and objectives. His followers do not believe in traditional government system.

The HT activists use iron hammer and gul (tobacco dust) when they attack. They used a hammer to kill one Abdul Malek in Pagla Bazar in Fatulla, Narayangaj on September 26, 2003 when local devotees protested the HT activities.

HT followers term ajan "barking of dog" and do not say their prayers at mosques. They never exchange salam (Islamic greetings).

Mahbub Ali, Kushtia district HT ameer, has been working along with 40/50 activists. Sohrab Hossain Khan of Sakukuthi village in Gouranadi upazila of Barisal, an absconding accused of a murder case, has also been leading HT activities from hideouts.

Islamic thinker Tokiuddin Al Nakhani formed Hizb-ut Tahrir in 1953 in Jerusalem five years after Israel captured Palestine. Golam Mowla, a lecturer of management at Dhaka University, went to London in 1993 to do his PhD and got introduced with Nasimul Gani and Kawsar Shahnewaj, who were holding an open discussion at London Regent Park. After returning to Bangladesh by 2000, Nasimul and Shahnewaj set up an office for the organisation's Bangladesh chapter at a BBA coaching centre at Dhanmondi-6/A and launched Tahrir works with Golam Mowla.

Objective: Opposing the traditional way of politics, Tahrir men advocated for establishing Islamic lifestyle by changing the society. The organisation has designed a series of seminar and symposium to propagandise its ideology as they think to bring change in human thoughts first. They chose strategy to work as prophets to establish a khilafat (Islamic rule). Noting that Islamic state cannot be established for absence of unity among Muslims, they aimed at uniting Muslims and began distributing leaflets on their ideology among people.

Hizb-ut Tahrir, Bangladesh office is situated on the third floor of Khairunnesa Bhaban on Elephant Road. The organisation has no committee or constitution. But Mohiuddin Ahmad, senior lecturer of DU IBA Department, is serving as its co-ordinator.

With Dr Sayeed working as joint co-ordinator, DR Syed Golam Mowla, Sheikh Towfik of DU Public Administration, Kazi Morshedul Haque, Doctor Nasimul Gani and Kawser Shahnewaj are working with the organisation.

Activities: The organisation is running activities at different universities, especially private ones, and medical colleges openly and secretly. Members of the organisation hold weekly discussions at 7:30pm every Thursday at the Khairunnesa Bhaban. The members of Chittagong Tahrir hold discussions at Southern Province School on the third floor of Lim Tower in Chittagong every Friday afternoon.

Intelligence men fear that Tahrir may turn into an extremist organisation any moment for change in the leadership. They suggested close monitoring of the organisation.

Moulana Abdul Jabbar, a former leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, formed IBP on June 29, 2001, after splitting from Jamaat in the early '80s. First, he formed a faction and named it Jamaat-e-Islami (Jabbar). Following clash with Jamaat, he renamed it Islami Samaj Bangladesh and continued until forming the IBP.

Principle & Objective: Terming people's sovereignty, rule and authority the most blasphemous act, the IBP identified it as an "unpardonable sin" and announced to establish an Islamic state.

Jabbar first took an office at Goran but shifted later to 4, South Basabo (Ohab Colony) in Dhaka. It has no other office in the country.

Leadership: Abdul Jabbar is the IBP ameer while Moulana Syed Humayun Kabir is the executive director (Qaiyem). Dr Muhammad Abul Khayer, Moulana Saiduzzaman Khan, Moulana Ali Sarker and Moulana Yasin are its members.

Activities: Jabbar sent a letter to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, issuing a three-month ultimatum to declare the country as an Islamic state. As the PM did not take any step even after the ultimatum ended, Jabbar formed a counter government with IBP. Saying that he had enmity with all the governments, Jabbar noted that it is a religious duty of all to revolt against the government. He claimed that his party is fully prepared to run the government and advocated for a presidential government.

Later, IBP held a meeting at Muktangan on January 28, 2003 and held several meetings at south gate of Baitul Mokarram. Police arrested so-called IBP-nominated PM Syed Humayun Kabir, a former ICS leader, on September 14, 2003 from Daudkandi, Comilla. Another IBP member Habibur Rahman and four IBP militants were arrested on September 10, 2003 and two others on the next day.

Police also arrested IBP member Ansar Ali from Sherpur on September 15, a day after a leaflet asking for ousting the government and forming an alternative cabinet was distributed in the district.

In 2003, intelligence agencies suggested banning the organisation immediately fearing that it might create trouble in smooth running of the country and be a threat to the country's sovereignty.