Police have gathered evidence that the outfit prepared a list of local Hindus and secularists, and finalised plans to kill a doctor, Nirendranath Sarker. The members communicate with each other through secured messaging application Threema and social media website Facebook.
The investigators, however, are yet to know when the group started work and the possible number of its members.
They came to know about the outfit after questioning two cousins of Shariful – Aminul Islam Rumi, 23, and Enamul Huq Sabuj, 22, of Sreepur Khamarpara village under Baghmara.
The duo were arrested on Monday night and produced before a Rajshahi court the following day with a five-day remand prayer for each. The hearing may take place next week, according to court sources.
During interrogation, Rumi disclosed the names of three of his associates in Ansar Rajshahi – Rawshan Ali alias Akash, of Parbhangura under Pabna's Bhangura; Abu Ibrahim alias Tareq alias Ripon, and Md Bulbul alias Alamin alias Billal of Boalia in Rajshahi.
Since last year, the JMB members have killed at least seven Hindu priests across the country while threatened several dozen Hindus and Christians with death. The outfit also launched attacks on three Christians in the northern districts. Two of them were killed.
Known as a stronghold of outlawed JMB, Baghmara saw a deadly bomb attack on a local Ahmadiyya mosque on December 26 last year that killed the JMB suicide attacker and injured 10 devotees. In 2004, JMB second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai established a reign of terror in the area by killing and torturing scores of people.
Shariful alias Rahat alias Talha, 25, has remained missing for the last 15 months, his family members say. He is the son of Abdul Hakim of Sreepur Khamarpara. He was a student of English department at Rajshahi University. Police claim that he was one of the JMB operatives who hacked Prof Rezaul to death near his house in Shalbagan area on April 23.
The family members of Shariful filed a general diary with the police on July 4 seeking information about him. He used to meet Rumi and Sabuj regularly before he going missing last year.
The RMP authorities on July 29 announced Tk1 lakh bounty for Shariful and another JMB militant – Nazrul Islam alias Bike Hassan who was wanted in 11 cases filed over the recent targeted killings including Prof Rezaul murder. Nazrul was killed in an alleged gunfight with the DB police in Rajshahi on August 1.
Families unaware of militant link
Rumi's family claims his father Saiful Islam was picked up by plainclothes police from the house at Sreepur Khamarpara village around 1am on August 11. Rumi fled the house sensing the presence of the police.
At that time, police allegedly asked the family to hand over Rumi to them to ensure release of Saiful, and they complied with the condition. They went to the police station around 11am along with Rumi and the police let Saiful go.
Rumi's mother Tayejan Begum said that her son used to say prayers at the local mosque regularly and work with his father in the field. “He was introvert … was not attentive in his studies.”
Tayejan said that she had no idea what Rumi and Shariful used to do apart from studies. She claimed that Rumi was innocent and demanded that the people behind Ansar Rajshahi be arrested immediately.
A local grocer Ali Hossain said that Rumi and Sabuj used to go to his shop for chat. “They were very close to their cousin Shariful,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Rumi did not continue his studies at Bhobaniganj College. He passed SSC from Baghmara Pilot School and HSC from Baghmara Degree College.
Sabuj's house is close to Rumi's. His father Abdur Razzak left for Malaysia in April. Sabuj passed Dakhil from a local madrasa, HSC from Baghmara Degree College and was admitted to Rajshahi College. He stopped attending college as his father refused to carry his educational costs. He also wanted to go abroad, but failed.
“He usually stays at home. Sometimes he go outside to prepare his passport. I do not know what he did with his mobile after his work.
“Detectives who arrested him told me that they had found something on his phone,” Sabuj's mother Faizan Begum said.
'They hailed Gulshan attack'
Rajshahi Police Superintendent Moazzem Hossain on Tuesday said that they had found Threema app on their phones. “We have got 58-page printed document of their conversations,” the SP told reporters.
Through the app, Rumi recently asked a member of his group whether he would launch the attack on the Hindu doctor as he had refused to convert to Islam. He, however, sought an associate since the location of the target was close to a police station.
Hailing the July 1 Gulshan terror attack where JMB militants killed 23 people, mostly foreigners, Rumi regretted that he could not embrace martyrdom like the five Gulshan attackers and sought blessings from the person so that he could succeed in killing the Hindu doctors of the area.
In another communication, Sabuj told someone that he wanted to carry the operational cost of killing the targeted Hindu doctor.