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The Afghan connection of Aug 21 attackers

  • Published at 12:36 am October 9th, 2018
A grenade lies on the ground at the site of the August 21 attack. Inset: Maulana Abdus Salam, a founder of Harkat-ul-Jihad-alIslami Bangladesh (HuJI,B) Dhaka Tribune

Twenty-four people were killed in that incident

Maulana Abdus Salam, one of the founders of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI,B), the Bangladeshi branch of the eponymous terrorist group,HuJI, orchestrated the 2004 attack on an Awami League rally to eliminate the-then opposition leader and current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Twenty-four people were killed in that incident. If the attack had been successful, most of the Awami League policymakers, including the party chief, would have been killed, reports Bangla Tribune.

A total of 52 people have been charged in two cases over the attack — one over the killings and the other under the Explosives Act. One of them is Maulana Abdus Salam, of the HuJI,B.

During interrogations, Salam told investigators of his meeting with Osama bin Laden in the 80s during the Afghan war and how Osama had inspired him to raise arms against the then-Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.

In his statement, Salam said that sometime in March 2004, a few months before the attack, he came in contact with Mufti Abdul Hannan (executed HuJI,B top leader).

“He [Mufti] took me with him to Mohammadpur’s Sat Masjid for midday prayers, where I met Maulana Tajuddin and Abdul Majed Butt. Tajuddin said it will be difficult for us to operate in Bangladesh and India if the Awami League comes to power and the only way to stop it was to eliminate Sheikh Hasina. With her out of the scene, the party will split and will never be able to come in power,” reads the statement.

Salam said he went to Pakistan the following month and spent nearly four and a half months in Lahore and Karachi. “It is all stated in my passport. I returned to Bangladesh a few days after the August 21 grenade attack.”

Investigators said 13 to 14 grenades were detonated on the day. Maulana Tajuddin is one of the masterminds of the August 21, 2004 attack who allegedly supplied the grenades.

According to court documents and sources at the intelligence, the then-officials of the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) escorted Tajuddin to the airport to board a flight to Pakistan’s Karachi.

In 2014, Interpol informed Bangladesh that he was traced in South Africa, following which Dhaka made official requests to Pretoria to deport him.

Tajuddin is the brother of former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, who is also one of the accused in the cases.

Abdul Majed Butt was born in India but later became a Pakistani citizen.

An operative of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, which is considered the largest guerrilla organization active in Indian-administered Kashmir, Butt frequently travelled between Bangladesh and Pakistan from early 2000 to mid 2007 until his arrest.

He was responsible for supplying arms to India through Bangladeshi soil.

Salam’s statement to investigators also revealed HuJI,B’s links with India’s United Liberation Front Of Assam (ULFA), Myanmar Rohingya militants and the Pakistani intelligence agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

HuJI (or HJI) was formed in 1984, during the Soviet-Afghan War. In 1987, it was associated with Osama bin Laden’s “jihad.” Back then, the Saudi construction billionaire’s son, Osama, used to work for an organization named “Makhtab Al Khidmat.” The infamous al-Qaeda was formed in 1988 and HuJI has been since affiliated with it.

HuJI’s Bangladesh branch, the HuJI,B started its activities in 1989. Its first public appearance was on April 25, 1992, when it held a rally. 

Salam received his education from a madrasa in Bogra before he left for Pakistan in 1984 for higher studies.

The Dawra-e-Hadith-graduate from Lahore’s Jamia Ashrafia Madrasa was arrested on November 1, 2009 over the grenade attack on the Awami League rally.