Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) arrested Kashem, alias Boro Hujur, the alleged spiritual leader of militant outfit New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), from Dhaka’s Mirpur area on Thursday night, said Monirul Islam, CTTC chief and additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
“We have information that he approved the attack, but if we interrogate him further we will be able to ascertain the truth. We will try to learn what his role was in the attack,” Monirul said at a press briefing in Dhaka on Friday afternoon.
The New JMB group is affiliated with international terrorist group Islamic State. It aims to establish Shariah Law in the country, and to spread its jihad to Myanmar’s Rakhine State and parts of India.
Kashem was shown arrested in a case related to the Kallyanpur militant den bust. Later a Dhaka court placed him on a seven-day remand, said court officer SI Altaf Hossain.
On the basis of information that Kashem was there to withdraw some money through bKash account, two teams of CTTC unit conducted a drive at Senpara Parbata in Mirpur and arrested him around 11pm on Thursday.
Police learnt of the New JMB’s Boro Hujur in early 2015.
In 2015 and 2016, police arrested some militants who also had information on Boro Hujur, Monirul added.
“We primarily knew that Mawlana Kashem had been working as the principal at a madrasa in Dinajpur. He and his family were already involved with Old JMB. He had been serving as chief of a rebel faction of JMB when Ameer Saidur Rahman was arrested in 2010. Then he joined New JMB,” he said.
In late 2013, Tamim Chowdhury, the alleged mastermind of Gulshan attack, visited Kashem and other leaders in Rajshahi. New JMB was formed after that meeting.
“A foreign intelligence agency gave us this information in 2014, but they did not provide the name that time. They told only that he was a Madrasa principal,” he added.
Kashem also wrote several books on religious extremism anonymously like “Dawar Ashol Rup,” “Jihad Keno Korben” and “Islami Boshonto,” which were mandatory texts for New JMB training.
“Kashem motivated people to use wrong explanations of Quran and Hadith in training sessions to inspire them to kill non-Muslims and foreigners,” Monirul said.
After the arrest of New JMB northern Commander Jahangir alias Rajiv Gandhi, police got details about Kashem, but he was not at that location.
“After that he was on the wind. Few days ago, we arrested Boro Mizan and based on the information that he gave, we got some idea about Kashem’s location and our team arrested him,” Monirul said.
The JMB had been divided for tactical reasons, because there were conflicts over leadership. At that time Kashem joined Mawlana Saidur Rahman. But a rift appeared between them as Saidur thought the terrorist group needed more time to go into action and Kashem preferred starting immediately with randomly killing people. The Gulshan and Sholakia attacks were the part of that incident, Monirul said.
CTTC officials in October last year said Mawlana Kashem was under their surveillance.
Police are now looking for 8-10 second-tier leaders of New JMB, who were involved in at least three dozen attacks since September 2015.
Former Majlish-e-Sura member of JMB and death-row convict Salahuddin alias Salehin now heads the old JMB faction. He has been eluding arrest since February 2014 when JMB members snatched him from a prison van.