The investigators are now certain that the top two masterminds of two like-minded militant outfits responsible for the recent terror attacks have been staying somewhere in Dhaka.
Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury masterminded the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks while suspended Maj Syed Md Ziaul Haque is the man behind the murder of bloggers across the country.
On August 2, police chief AKM Shahidul Hoque disclosed their names and announced Tk20 lakh bounty for each of them.
“We are trying to arrest them tracing their location but we are also seeking information from the people. This is why we have already declared Tk20 lakh bounty on them,” Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam told reporters at his office yesterday.
Monirul said that they were getting much information about the duo's possible location from the people. Since the Gulshan attack, “we have conducted drives in at least 10 houses at different parts of Dhaka and recovered some militant-related evidence.
“The duo are changing their location frequently but drives to arrest them is also under way.”
Regarding the New JMB, operated by Tamim, Monirul said: “There are two factions of the JMB [Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh]. Primarily, all the members join the group under the leadership of Maulana Saidur Rahman [have been in jail since 2010], but some of them refused to accept him as their leader. So they floated a new group, now known as New JMB.”
According to investigators, Tamim came to Bangladesh from Canada in 2013, taking special assignment to reorganise the distracted militants. He stayed in a northern district for long and took guidance from a spiritual leader there.
Two militant leaders Rajib and Ripon from Gaibandha joined Tamim, and they started planning attacks on different places by collecting members. They also gave the recruits training in their different hideouts.
The New JMB members were inspired through videos of Islamic State fighters and their operations in the Middle-East and elsewhere, Monirul said.
Tamim also received funds for his group from Abul Hasanat, father of IS' external operations planner Saiful Islam Sujan alias Abu Khalid al-Bengali who was killed in Raqqa of Syria in December last year. Hasnat and four others were arrested on December 9 in Dhaka with Tk39 lakh in their possessions.
The investigators have also found five other financiers of the New JMB group and are conducting raids to arrest them.
On the other hand, Zia is a top leader of outlawed group Ansarullah Bangla Team, which is responsible for over a dozen attacks on bloggers and publishers. He was from the engineer corps at Mirpur Cantonment and trained in special operations, according to sources.
A high official of an investigating agency has said that Zia created a strong network of militants in Sylhet, which is also his home district. “But the network is almost destroyed in the district now,” the officer added.
Zia’s name first came up in 2010 for instigating a mutiny in the army cashing in on the 2009 BDR Mutiny, and also the following year, along with over a dozen of army officers – linked to outlawed outfit Hizb ut-Tahrir – for attempting a failed coup in December 2011.
Detectives in 2014 said that the JMB was receiving expertise from Zia in reorganising, planning and conducting anti-state activities as the two groups had agreed to work together.
Saiful Islam, additional deputy commissioner of the CTTC unit, said: “We have arrested a number of Ansarullah members from different parts of Sylhet. They gave us sensational information and names of some leaders of the outfit.”
He hoped that they would be able to arrest the absconding militants soon.