The suspects have been monitoring secular activists through social media platforms
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested four suspected members of the banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), accused of planning to kill a daily newspaper editor.
RAB Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan disclosed the information at a press briefing at RAB’s Media Centre, in Karwan Bazar, around 11:30am on Friday.
The RAB official also said: “The suspects were planning to kill an editor of a national daily newspaper, which published a criticism of a hadith - record of the traditions or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on marriage.”
They were arrested in Uttara area around 2am on Friday.
The RAB official also mentioned arresting another ABT member – Abdus Sobhan alias Habib, 28 – in Ashulia area on January 28.
Based on information provided by Sobhan, RAB 1 conducted a drive in Uttara and arrested the four.
The arrestees are Shahriar Nafis Ammar Hossain, 20, Md Rasel alias Sajedul Islam Gifary, 24, Rabiul Islam alias Nurul Islam, 24, and Abdul Malek, 31.
The RAB media director said the suspects were accused of monitoring secular activists on social media platforms, where they were posing as an online activist – all of themusing a single profile.
They also had planned to kill those who criticized Islam on social media.
Mufti Mahmud said they have foiled the ABT’s mission of killing those who posted negative statements about Islam.
‘They are trying to revive the organization’
Mufti Mahmud said after initial interrogation, RAB learnt that the suspects were trying, secretly, to revive the organization.
Their main objective was to free the organization’s chief, Jasimuddin Rahmani, from jail. They even had plans to break Jasim out of jail if the failed to get him released through legal means.
“The RAB officials recovered some extremist books, mobile phones and sharp weapons from the suspects’ possession at the time of the arrest. During the initial questioning, they confessed to being active members of ABT,” said this RAB official.
He said the groups were mainly monitoring online activists.
"One of the militants, Shahriar, joined a group with atheist members, using a fake name. The militants were planning to kill one of the members [of the atheists’ group], as decided by the militant outfit,"headded.
During interrogation, one of the suspectssaid he went to Bogra from Dhaka with a sharp weapon last week,while another went to Bogra from Barguna, the RAB official said at the press briefing.
“The ABT man, who went to Bogra, called one of the online activists over phone to meet him, but the online activist did not show up at the meeting place,” he added.
Among the arrestees, Shahriar, from Dhunot upazila in Bogra, studied till Class 7 in a madrasa. He joined the ABT under the influence of an ABT member named Aman whom he met on Facebook.
The RAB official added: “Rasel, from Fulgachia in Bhola, passed SSC exams in 2013 and took a job in an RMG factory. Later, he worked as a construction worker. He, too, was influenced by Aman into joining ABT.
“Rasel was the point person for communication with different people, collecting money from them and recruiting members, as per the ABT high command’s directive.”
The RAB media wing director further added: “Nurul, who is from Bogra, passed his Dakhil examination in 2010, later took admission in Bogra Polytechnic Institute in 2015. He was radicalized by Shahriar.”
Malek, a driver by profession, was influenced by Rasel through social media and joined ABT in 2018, he added.
RAB is currently preparing to take legal action against the detainees, the RAB official said.