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A hospital staff carrying bodies of Marjan and the other militant toward DMCH morgue Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune
Two most wanted militants of the New JMB group including the Gulshan terror attack operational commander Marjan have been killed in an alleged gunfight with the police’s counter-terrorism unit in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur area.
Formerly an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader in Chittagong University, Nurul Islam alias Marjan alias Shakil, 22, is believed to be the youngest operations commander of the notorious militant outfit, linked to Islamic State.
The other killed in the early Friday shootout with the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit is Saddam Hossain - alias Rahul alias Sabuj alias Chanchal alias Robi - who is accused in at least 10 murder cases including the one filed over the slaying of Japanese citizen Hoshi Kunio in Kaunia town of Rangpur District in October 2015.
CTTC chief Monirul Islam confirmed their identities to the Dhaka Tribune on Friday morning.
Also Read - Marjan coordinated Gulshan attack
"Acting on a tip-off that Marjan was staying in Mohammadpur Beribadh area, we conducted a drive in front of Rayerbazar martyred intellectuals killing ground [Bodhobhumi] around 3am," CTTC Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune. "Sensing our presence, the militants opened fire at us. In retaliation, we fired back, leaving the duo injured.”
They were both declared dead when taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal later told reporters that the duo and another had been passing the area on a motorcycle when the police asked them to stop at a check post.
“They hurled bombs targeting the members of counter-terrorism unit. In retaliation, the law enforcers fired back.”
DMP Additional Deputy Commissioner Yusuf Ali said that they had recovered a motorcycle, a pistol, a knife and some explosives from the spot.
Shahida Begum, a tea vendor at a nearby slum, said that she had heard several explosions and gunshots around 3am.
Nuruzzaman, another slum dweller, said the sound of non-stop gunshots had frigthened them. “We were very scared and could not summon the courage to come out of our houses,” he said.
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People seen gathering on the spot where Gulshan attack coordinator Nurul Islam alias Marjan and another militant were killed on January 6, 2017 Arifur Rahman Rabbi
Marjan was among 14 New JMB leaders wanted by law enforcers since the Holey Artisan Bakery attack on July 1 last year. Police released his photo on August 12.
Investigators learnt about Marjan after scrutinising some 30 mobile phones recovered from the restaurant after the Operation Thunderbolt on July 2 morning when the five attackers had been killed.
On December 25, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claimed that Marjan would be arrested "anytime" as the law enforcers were chasing him.
Marjan, who had been missing since February 14, 2015, became operational head of the outfit after the deaths of Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, Maj (retd) Murad alias Zahid and another top leader Faridul Islam alias Akash in raids. He was an expert in the Arabic language and in operating heavy arms.
Also Read - Kamal: Arrest of maj Zia, Marjan at anytime
He came from a strict Muslim family of Afuria village under Hemayetpur union in Pabna. He was the second son of Nizamuddin and Salma Khatun’s 10 children. He passed his Dakhil exams from Darul Ulum Markaziya Madrasa in Pabna in 2010 and Alim exams from Ariful Jamiul Fazil Madrasa, Pabna in 2012.
Marjan married his cousin Afrin Akhter - alias Prioti alias Fatema Ferdous - in January last year and they disappeared together, according to his family. Afrin was arrested during a drive in Azimpur on September 10 last year and gave birth to a girl on December 20 while still in custody.
CTTC chief Monirul said that Saddam had been accused in 10 cases. Police have submitted charge sheets in five of the cases. He was accused of planning the attacks and supplying arms and a motorcycle.
Saddam is the son of Alam Miah alias Jola, and Sufia Begum, hailing from Char Bidhyananda village of Rajarhat Upazila in Kurigram.
A highly-placed source of an investigating agency told the Dhaka Tribune that Marjan had stayed in the militant den at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha for a long period and visited other training camps of the outfit in the northern districts.
He reportedly gave motivational training to seven militants in the den and was brought to Dhaka at the beginning of Ramadan. Of them, five took part in the Gulshan terror attack on July 1, 2016, when five New JMB members stormed Holey Artisan Bakery and O’Kitchen, a Spanish restaurant frequented by foreigners in the Gulshan diplomatic zone, and massacred 23 people, of whom 17 were foreign nationals.
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Gulshan attack coordinator Nurul Islam alias Marjan Courtesy
The Gulshan attackers had sent updates and photos of the restaurant massacre to an ID using a 'protected text'. Marjan had the password of the ID and he opened it and then sent the photos to the mastermind and planner.
Islamic State took credit for the attack reportedly as revenge to the coalition operations against the militant group in Syria and Iraq, and published photos of the massacre.
Also Read- Police: ‘New JMB’ planned suicide attack on Dhaka church
Marjan was one of the closest associates of New JMB military and operational wing commander Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, who was killed in a subsequent raid by the CTTC unit in Narayanganj on August 27.
Even though Marjan is now dead, at least 14 top- and middle-tier leaders of New JMB are still at large. Marjan's brother-in-law Sagar is also involved with the same group.
The wanted militants include New JMB’s IT wing in-charge Basharuzzaman alias Abul Bashar alias Chocolate, trainer Jahangir alias Rajib Gandhi, and Musa alias Mainuddin alias Mosiuddin; Sohel Mahfuz alias Hatkata Mahfuz, Ripon, Khalid and so-called 'big brother' Junayed Hasan Khan, who all fled to India; and Iqbal, Manik, Mamun, Azadul Kabiraz and Badal.