Zia, who is facing Tk20 lakh bounty, is believed to have masterminded the machete attacks on over a dozen secularist bloggers, publishers and teachers conducted in Dhaka and Rajshahi since 2013.
In the last attack, Ansarullah members killed LGBT rights activists Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Tonoy at Kalabagan on April 25, and warned of further attacks.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that Zia was already under surveillance and that he would be arrested soon.
Officials of the police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, however, say that they are not sure about Zia’s location. “He is hiding somewhere in Dhaka or a nearby area. He changes his den frequently,” a senior official said seeking anonymity.
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.
The CTTC unit has so far identified 20 other senior leaders of Ansarullah including Zia’s deputy Selim alias Iqbal alias Mamun alias Hadi 2. Police declared bounty on Selim twice.
The law enforcers say that they have no idea about the top leader of the outfit who took charge after the arrest of its spiritual leader Jasimuddin Rahmani in 2013. Several sources, however, confirmed to the Dhaka Tribune that one of its three top leaders is Tamim Al Adnani, who fled to Malaysia early this year.
Detectives claim that the strength of Ansarullah has decreased in the recent months due to the ongoing crackdown
on militants after the July 1
Gulshan cafe attack, carried out reportedly by a new faction of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
International terrorist group Islamic State took credit for the Holey Artisan Bakery attack. On the other hand, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) claimed responsibility for 13 attacks carried out by Ansarullah.
Police primarily said that Zia might be behind the Gulshan attack too. But they have not got any concrete information regarding this.
Since November last year, at least 42 members of the New JMB have been killed in raids while two others committed suicide.
Saiful Islam, additional deputy commissioner of CTTC unit, told the Dhaka Tribune that detectives had got some clues about Ansarullah’s top leaders and operations in the country following the arrest of several members from Sylhet.
“We are now analysing the information and conducting drives to arrest the militants,” he added.
The DMP on May 19 declared Tk18 lakh as rewards for information on six top leaders of Ansarullah for their direct involvement in the murder of bloggers and publishers.
Four of them have already been arrested. One of the four,
Shariful alias Shakib alias Sharif alias Saleh alias Arif alias Hadi 1 alias Mukul Rana, was killed in an alleged gunfight with the police on June 19.
Police are now looking for Selim alias Iqbal alias Mamun alias Hadi 2, Sazzad alias Sajib alias Siam, Tahsin alias Taher, Junayed and 17 other senior leaders of the outfit that has at least four sleeper cells tasked with different tasks including recruitment and training.
Sanowar Hossain, ADC of CTTC unit, claims that Ansarullah is a small group that usually targets single persons. “The outfit has no capability to conduct any massive attack. Our officials are working to trace the location of its leaders,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
DB Deputy Commissioner Masruqure Rahman Khaled echoed Sanowar, and added that they were working to stop any kind of activities of the outfit.