M Sakhawat Hossain, who got involved in militancy when serving in the Navy, was New JMB’s bomb expert Mahfuz, counter-terrorism officials say.
The Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit has been looking for him after a number of militants mentioned Mahfuz’s name during interrogations.
However, CTTC officials learned that Sakhawat alias Mahfuz had been killed in ‘Operation Hitback’ at Moulvibazar on March 29 this year. Another militant Lokman Hossain alias Sohel, his wife and four children, too, were killed in the operation.
Mahfuz had married Lokman’s elder daughter at the organisation’s order when in hiding. He was the military wing commander of New JMB and was skilled in making bombs, the CTTC has learned.
CTTC’s Additional Deputy Police Commissioner Ahmedul Islam said they were almost certain that Sakhwat used the alias Mahfuz to conduct militant activities.
“He was trained by another militant leader Fardin on making bombs during his time on the run. Before his death in Nasirpur, Mahfuz was acting as the military wing commander of New JMB,” Islam said.
CTTC and family sources said Sakhawat alias Mahfuz hailed from Madhya Dakkhin Para in Phulbaria’s Jorabari in Mymensingh. Born in 1984, Sakhawat cleared his SSC examination in 2002 from Phulbaria’s Al Hera Academy High School. He got admitted to Phulbaria Degree College but joined the Navy in 2004 before passing HSC. He got involved in militancy during his time in the Navy.
Another counter-terrorism unit official said Mahfuz joined militancy around 2014 through Fardin, a top New JMB leader. Mahfuz received training on bomb making from Fardin. Initially, Mahfuz was tasked with organizing New JMB in the Chittagong region.
He chalked out a plan to bomb the mosque of Issa Khan Naval Base in Chittagong on December 18, 2015. Before that, he had joined RAB 12 on deputation.
Sakhawat alias Mahfuz’s name came up during interrogation of militants caught after the naval base mosque bombing. A day before that, he took leave and fled to his village home.
According to the charge sheet, three people – Ramjan, Mannan and Babul – used fake identity and gave false information about their educational qualification to work at the base as canteen boy, batman and ball keeper, with Sakhawat’s help.
“It was New JMB’s organizational decision,” a CTTC officer said.
Sakhwat’s wife Sharmin Akter told the detectives that her husband received a call on his phone around 9pm on December 18, 2015. He rushed out of the house empty-handed without telling anyone anything. Around midnight, a group of 20-25 people, who identified themselves as detectives and RAB surrounded the house and searched for Sakhawat.
The officials told Sharmin that her husband would live only if he surrendered. But they did not say anything about why they were looking for him. Before leaving, the RAB officials took away Sakhawat’s laptop.
Sharmin said members of security agencies had come to their house many times after that. She later learned that her husband had gotten involved with militancy.
The mother of two said they recently learned about Sakhawat’s death in Moulvibazar militant hideout.
Counter-terrorism officials said Sakhwat alias Mahfuz stayed at a hideout in Mirpur’s Shahali after fleeing from his home. Fardin and several other militants, too, were there. On December 25 that year, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Detective Branch raided the hideout. They arrested two men with a huge amount of explosives and bomb-making material.
The arrested militants said Sakhawat and Fardin had fled the hideout before the raid with AK 22 rifles.
A CTTC official said Sakhawat fled to a Gaibandha hideout from Mirpur and worked as a trainer for New JMB militants. His pseudonym was ‘Tahush’ and he always covered his face to hide his identity. A number of militants such as Bike Hasan, Badar Mama, Rahul – who took part in militant attacks in the northern region – were trained by him.
“Fardin introduced him to Tamim Chowdhury during his stay at Gaibandha. Sakhawat was ordered to go back to Chittagong where he worked together with Lokman alias Sohel,” the CTTC officer said. “Around the beginning of this year he went to Sylhet with Lokman following the organization’s decision. Sakhawat had also married Lokman’s daughter.”
Counter-terrorism sources said Mainul alias Musa was elected the New JMB chief after Tamim Chowdhury was killed in a raid in Narayanganj on August 27 last year. Musa then made Sakhawat military commander of the organization. CTTC officials said he was involved in the bombing outside Sylhet’s Atia Mahal which killed seven people, including RAB intelligence wing chief.
Sakhawat, the son of retired government official Abul Hossain and Nurunnahar, is the third among his six siblings. His elder brother Zakir Hossain teaches at local Al Hera Academy High School and another brother Abu Sayeed Jahangir Hossain works at the Islami Bank.
His sisters – Umme Kulsum and Saima Akter – are both school teachers while Sabbir Ahmed, the youngest of the siblings, studies at the Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.
Sakhawat’s relatives said his first posting from the Navy was in 2013 to Nilphamari and then to Tangail RAB. He got married in 2011.
His father Abul Hossain said his son offered regular prayers and fasted since childhood but they could not believe that Sakhawat had gotten involved in militancy.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune