Vol. 5 Num 1007 Sat. March 31, 2007  
Front Page

The deadly terror outfit, rise of its kingpins

Militant activities of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) came to spotlight in April 2004 when its vigilantes started operations and killing people in Rajshahi-Naogaon regions. The extremist organisation, however, had long been running its activities secretly.

Local administration, lawmakers and a few ministers of the then BNP-led four-party coalition government were alleged for supporting the JMB activities.

When newspapers started reporting on the activities of Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai and his Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) in the country's northern region in 2004, the government said it was false. It even blamed the media for creating the "fictitious" character of Bangla Bhai.

The government, however, on February 23, 2005 banned JMB, accusing the top leaders of the outfit--Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai--of carrying out bomb attacks and killings in recent times to create anarchy in the country.

Following pressures from both home and abroad after the August 17 countrywide bomb blasts, the government arrested many JMB militants, including top leaders, which led to yesterday's hanging.

But the loss caused by the countrywide bombings in the name of Islamic revolution and cleansing outlaws in northern districts during the tenure of the previous government is almost impossible to be compensated.

Bangla Bhai
JMB operations chief Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, son of Nazir Hossain Pramanik of Karnipara village in Gabtoli upazila of Bogra, was actively involved in the politics of Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, for a long time.

Also known as Azizur Rahman and Omar Ali alias Litu, he taught at the Shibir-run Retina Coaching Centre in Bogra town and another Shibir-run coaching centre in Dhaka.

Bangla Bhai was arrested in Bagerhat on August 17, 2002 in an attempt-to-murder case but was released after three months as his name was not included in the charge sheet.

A rice trader, Bangla Bhai came in contact with JMB chief Abdur Rahman through his past involvement with Islamist organisations. The JMB chief sent Bangla Bhai to Afghanistan where he mastered operating different kinds of firearms and making bombs.

Talking to journalists at a government office in Bagmara upazila in Rajshahi on April 13, 2004, he said, "My organisation has started working to cleanse the area of outlaws in association with some ruling party leaders and police officers."

On May 17, the JMB activists caught Idris Ali alias Khejur Ali, Bashar and Abdul Qaiyum Badsha from different villages of Raninagar upazila in Naogaon.

Bangla Bhai killed Badsha and hanged his body from a tree three days later in Bamangram village of Nandigram upazila in the district. The incident saw widespread talks across the country.

The police later disinterred the body of Ali, sliced in seven pieces, in Bhitigram in Naogaon on May 28.

Bangla Bhai set up five camps in Rajshahi and Naogaon in a bid to "cleanse the region of outlaws".

A regional JMB commander told reporters that policemen both in plainclothes and uniform used to guard the camps and that Bangla Bhai held a meeting with a deputy minister on April 10, 2004 in front of him.

The JMB men received a vehicle from a directorate under the agriculture ministry for their task. Bangla Bhai used the vehicle for two months.

Sources said the then superintendents of police in Rajshahi and Naogaon used to advise Bangla Bhai over mobile phone.

Although the JMB men killed 22 people including a former army person in Rajshahi and Naogaon, Bangla Bhai was not accused in any of the cases filed in connection with the murders. Arrest warrants in some cases against him in Bogra, Khulna and Kushtia were, however, sent to his Karnipara house.

The militant linchpin spent two years at a mosque and madrasa at Jhautala under Khulshi Police Station in Chittagong before emerging as Bangla Bhai.

Sources said during his two-year assignment in the port city, Bangla Bhai spread militant network in the entire greater Chittagong region, especially in the three hill districts and Cox's Bazar, and established some militant training centres.

For his contribution to the expansion of Ahle Hadith and militant networks in the region, the JMB chief brought Bangla Bhai back to Bagmara in 2004 and promoted him as operations commander of JMB to root out leftist extremists in Rajshahi region, sources said.

In Chittagong, Bangla Bhai used to supervise militants' training at different centres and brainwashed fresh recruits of the Darul Hadith Salafia Madrasa.

The JMB chief visited the madrasa several times to monitor the activities. A large number of militants used to gather there every Friday to review their activities.

Bangla Bhai also supervised militant training centres in Sitakunda and Hathazari, detective police sources said.

JMB Chief Abdur Rahman
Self-styled as Shaikh (spiritual leader), Abdur Rahman was the chief of JMB that started militant activities in the country secretly in 1998.

Born in Charshi Khalifapara village of Jamalpur Sadar upazila, Rahman joined Islami Chhatra Shibir 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 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.

Rahman used to run 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 financial assistance to establish those institutions.

Rahman's existence as a militant kingpin came to light when JMB started its outlaw-cleansing operations in the Rajshahi region in 2004.

In an interview with The Daily Star in May 2006, Rahman admitted that he had been secretly operating the JMB since 1998. He said the outfit had trained up some 10,000 full-time activists across the country.

Our correspondent from Tangail reports: In 1998, Rahman formed JMB in Jamalpur to conduct "Jihadi" movement in Bangladesh and declared himself as Amir of the organisation. He also set up a soap factory in Jamalpur town the same year.

Later, he got fertiliser dealership of Jamalpur, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Mymensingh.

JMB started its militant activities in the country openly in 2002. Although the militant outfit initially started its activities in 38 districts, it expanded its activities in 58 districts within six months.

JMB published several monthly magazines, including Al Magazi, Al Islam, Al Madani, and Al Rahmat, through which Rahman called for armed jihad to establish Islamic rules in Bangladesh.

After a bomb blast in Dinajpur, the militant outfit went underground and shifted its headquarters from Jamalpur to Rajshahi in 2003. On instruction of Abdur Rahman, JMJB operations commander Bangla Bhai carried out several vigilante operations in Natore, Rajshahi and Naogaon in 2003 and 2004.

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.

Ataur Rahman Sunny
JMB military chief Ataur Rahman Sunny, brother of Abdur Rahman, was the kingpin of the countrywide bomb blasts on August 17, 2005. Sunny, in charge of Dhaka region, also trained JMB members on making bombs and explosions.

Quoting Sunny an intelligence officer told the media that the seven-member Majlish-e-Shura, highest policymaking body of JMB, decided to carry out the countrywide bomb attacks at a meting held in Rajshahi in March 2005.

Intelligence sources said Khaled Saifullah trained the JMB men in bomb-making. They believed Saifullah learnt bomb-making in Afghanistan when he visited the county during the Taliban regime.

Saifullah had been a leader of Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji) Bangladesh before he joined JMB. One of the seven-member Majlish-e-Shura, Faruq Hossain alias Khaled Saifullah was the in-charge of Rangpur-Dinajpur region.

Shaikh Abdur Rahman's son-in-law Abdul Awal Sarker was a JMB Majlish-e-Shura member and in-charge of Rajshahi region. Awal was assigned to smuggle in the detonators from India for using in the outfit's bomb attacks.

Another JMB activist hanged yesterday is Iftekhar Hasan Al Mamun was a suicide bomber.