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

Rahman spread vicious tentacles in only 7 years
Started politics with Shibir, Jamaat

Self-styled as shaekh (spiritual leader), Abdur Rahman is the chief of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), erstwhile Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) that has been operating in the country secretly since 1998.

Born in Charshi Khalifapara village of Jamalpur Sadar upazila, Rahman, aged around 50, joined Islami Chhatra Shibir and later Jamaat-e-Islami when he was a student.

He studied at Madina Islami University in Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s and later worked at the Saudi Embassy in Dhaka for five years from 1985. He has travelled to many countries including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia.

Rahman's father, late Moulana Abdullah Ibne Fazal, was a member of Jamiatul Ahle Hadith, lately led by arrested Rajshahi University teacher Asadullah Al Galib. Fazal was accused of collaborating with the Pakistani occupation forces during the Liberation War in 1971.

Rahman runs Al-Madina Islamic Cadet Madrasa and a mosque in Jamalpur. Saudi NGO Rabeta-e-Islam and Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society provided him with the financial assistance to establish those institutions.

Rahman's existence as a militant lynchpin came to light when he came forward in 2004 in support of JMJB operations commander Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai as the latter's anti-Sarbahara operations in some northern districts gave rise to controversy due to media reporting.

Bangla Bhai, allegedly sheltered by several ruling BNP lawmakers, led a spate of killings in Rajshahi, Natore and Naogaon in early 2003 and 2004.

In an interview with The Daily Star last May, Rahman admitted that he has been secretly operating the JMJB since 1998. He also said the headquarters of the JMJB is in Dhaka.

He also said the JMJB has trained up some 10,000 full-time activists across the country and it spends up to Tk 7 lakh on them per month. Majlish-e-Shura is the highest decision making body of the organisation.

The members and supporters of JMJB were divided into three tiers: Ehsar--full-timers who act at the directive of the higher echelons, Gayeri Ehsar--part-timers, and a third one consisting of those who indirectly cooperate with the outfit.

The organisation divided the country into nine organisational divisions.

The JMJB was renamed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh after a fight between Rahman's disciples and the police at a secret training camp in Joypurhat in August 2003.

Following the "encounter", the police arrested Rahman's brother Ataur Rahman alias Sunny and son-in-law Abdul Awal along with 17 other militants.

A few days later, however, they were released while the higher authorities transferred several police officials reportedly for making the arrests.

In a press note issued on February 23 last year, the home ministry announced the JMJB and JMB banned, accusing Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai of carrying out bomb attacks and killings in recent times to create anarchy in the country.

When newspapers started reporting on the activities of Bangla Bhai and JMJB in the northern region of the country about a year ago, the government said it was false. It even blamed the media for "creating" the "fictitious" character of Bangla Bhai.

"We do not know officially about the existence of the JMJB. Only some so-called newspapers are publishing reports on it. We do not have their constitution in our records," State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar told the BBC radio on January 26, 2005.

Even Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, while exchanging views with editors in August last year, said there is no existence of Bangla Bhai.

Ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer and Industries Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami on July 22 last year said, "Bangla Bhai has been created by some newspapers."

Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman on February 23 last year dubbed the onset of Islamist militancy across the country as nothing but a "foul propaganda" by a section of the media.

On the same day, however, after the government banned the JMJB, Babar told the BBC, "We are embarrassed as it is not being possible to arrest Bangla Bhai...We have put extreme pressure on the police to hold him."

On May 15 last year, a cabinet committee meeting on law and order ordered the police to arrest Bangla Bhai and his followers. A week later, the JMJB operatives staged a showdown in Rajshahi and met the deputy commissioner, superintendent of police (SP) and deputy inspector general of police (DIG).

Masud Mia, the then Rajshahi SP who had been suspended a few days ago, welcomed the JMJB team, saying, "We [the police] hail you as you are helping us eliminate the Sarbaharas from Rajshahi. We will cooperate with you in the coming days so that people can rest without fear."

Rajshahi range DIG Noor Mohammad on June 23 said there is no existence of "so-called Bangla Bhai" in the region.

Zahirul Haque, director general of external publicity wing of the foreign ministry, on January 25 this year quoted US Embassy officials in Dhaka about the non-existence of Bangla Bhai. The US embassy, however, refuted his comment.