The mysterious Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, whose name has emerged as the chief of Islamic State in Bangladesh, has finally been identified by local investigators.
“We have finally identified Hanif after analysing statements of different members of New Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB),” Sanowar Hossain, additional deputy commissioner of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, told the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday.
“Earlier, we thought Hanif and Tamim Chowdhury were the same person but before conducting the drive in Tamim's den in Narayanganj, we had some idea that they were different people.
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“We suspect that Hanif is hiding in some militant den of New JMB. But we also have information that he is almost powerless in the outfit as he does not make any operational decisions,” ADC Sanowar said.
He said militants used their organisational names for everyday use, which has caused some trouble in tracing Hanif.
Tamim was the operation wing leader before he was killed; then the mantle went to Akash, who was killed on Saturday in a drive in Patartek, Gazipur.
“Now we suspect that the operational leadership of the outfit will be taken up by either Nurul Islam Marjan or Basharuzzaman.”
Divisional leaders still elude law
Asked about the present status of New JMB, Sanowar said although a number of New JMB leaders and members had been killed recently, it still is not weakened as the group has leaders for all eight divisions – Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Barisal, Khulna, Sylhet, Rangpur and Mymenshingh. However, there was no evidence that these divisional leaders were carrying out any operational activities.
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Members of police's SWAT special unit marching out after conducting raid of a militant hideout at Patartek in Gazipur on Saturday Dhaka Tribune
According to law enforcers, since the Holey Artisan Bakery attack took place in Gulshan, a total of 33 members of New JMB members have been killed in drives and one other has committed suicide.
However, the law enforcers are yet to arrest the 12 second and third-tier top leaders of New JMB. Some of them have already fled to India.
Of these leaders, top New JMB men have been identified as Nurul Islam Marjan, Jahangir alias Rajib Gandhi, Shraiful Islam Khalid, Mamunur Rashid Ripon and Abdus Sakib alias Mastar Sakib. Khalid and Ripon are suspected to be in India.
Focus on Dhaka and surrounding areas
Officials of the CTTC unit said due to the drives against militants, members of the outfit are choosing to hide in Dhaka's surrounding districts. Around Dhaka, their places of choice are Gazipur, Narayanganj, Keraniganj, Savar and Kamrangirchar area.
In their investigation, law enforcers found that militants were choosing these areas as the presence of law enforcement is low there, as is the rent.
A senior official of CTTC, requesting anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that New JMB was focusing on Dhaka and its surrounding areas in a bid to grab more media coverage and public attention.
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ADC Sanowar said the group was now trying to find easy targets around Dhaka as they would not get the chance to do anything inside the city.
Besides increasing law enforcement vigilance, ADC Sanowar, also suggested that the public should remain alert and inform law enforcement agencies if anything suspicious is found happening them.
Officials of CTTC said they had arrested at least 150 members of the outfit since last year.
Vigilance still needed
A senior CTTC official said: “The militants are now looking for targets in Dhaka's surrounding districts. If any target matches with their agenda, there is a possibility of attack.”
In this regard, Monirul Islam, the chief of CTTC unit, said the rise of New JMB took place during 2014 and 2015 at the time of political violence in Bangladesh.
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Two members of police's SWAT special unit secure the roof of a militant hideout at Patartek in Gazipur on Saturday Dhaka Tribune
“They took that chance to set up their base in Bangladesh.”
Although a number of drives have weakened their power and activities but the outfit still has the capability to rise again if it gets opportunities like political unrests in the future, Monirul said.
“So, we have to remain alert and build awareness among the public so that they can notice suspicious activities around them,” added Monirul Islam.