Based on interrogation of a militant commander, law enforcers reveal that militant groups are working in concert to establish a Sharia-based state with the help of international terrorist group Islamic State.
The police arrested a regional commander of banned Islamist outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh yesterday and made the statement after initial questioning.
Their aim is to turn Bangladesh into a model Islamic country by 2020 incorporating parts of India and Myanmar with it, said the police. A new umbrella of militants named “International Lions Force of Hindustan” has also been working to turn the three neighbouring countries into one unified Islamic state in the long run.
A four-member delegation of the IS from Syria visited Chittagong in October last year and sat with the top leaders of banned Islamist outfits JMB, Huji and Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the recently-emerged Ansarullah Bangla Team, according to the information given out by the militant commander in custody.
JMB chief Saidur Rahman, Ansarullah’s Mufti Jashim Uddin Rahmani, and several top leaders of Huji held meetings inside the Kashimpur High Security Jail in September last year and decided to work together as they had the same goal – establishing an Islamic state in Bangladesh, said detectives.
Members of Chittagong city’s Akbar Shah police yesterday morning arrested Ershad Hossain alias Mamun, 20, of Birol upazila in Dinajpur, at a residence in the city’s New Monsurabad area. Police claim that grenade maker Ershad is the district commander of JMB, banned since 2005.
During interrogation, Ershad said the JMB members were working jointly with banned Huji and Hizb ut-Tahrir and other extremist groups including Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Their primary mission is to establish a separate Islamic country comprising Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban, Khagrachhari, and some border areas of India and Myanmar. Later they intend to bring entire Bangladesh under their grip.
Former Chhatra Shibir leader Ershad told the police that JMB alone has over 1,000 camouflaged members in the district preparing for jihad. Many of them were trained in Pakistan.
Police say the militant groups are regrouping mainly following the announcements by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri last year who urged Bangladeshi Muslims to take part in the holy war adopting al-Qaeda’s version of Islam. The leader vowed to export jihad to India, Myanmar and Bangladesh to defend vulnerable Muslims in the region.
Last month, law enforcers busted a number of militant dens and arrested some of their mid-level organisers in Chittagong. Since September last year, a number of militant leaders were arrested for suspected links to al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other international militant outfits. After the Bardhaman blasts, it was revealed that the JMB has its men in West Bengal of India too.
CMP Commissioner Abdul Jalil Mandal said: “Though they belong to different groups, the militants are now working together exploiting the anti-government movement to launching violent attacks on the members of different law enforcement agencies.”
He claimed that the members of Jamaat-e-Islami were carrying out subversive acts together with the JMB tactically. Police recently found arms, ammunition and explosives from two Shibir-dominated government colleges in the port city meant for conducting sabotage.
Kept in police custody, Ershad told the Dhaka Tribune that under his leadership, the district unit of JMB had about 15 commanders who control around 150 Eshar (key members), 500 Gayri Eshar (mid-level members) and a number of ansar (associate members).
To hide their identity and evade arrest, the members usually get engaged in different professions including stationery salesmen, day labourers and hawkers. Some of them have set up small shops in densely-populated areas of the city to ensure smooth contact within the group.
The ansar members can contact only their immediate seniors and they are asked not to use their own mobile phones, Ershad said.
Ershad himself has had been working at a stationery shop in the port city since early 2014 when he became the district commander.
Police found crude bomb-like objects, gunpowder, grenade-making materials, jihadi books and other documents in Ershad’s possession. Ershad confessed that he took training on sophisticated arms in Bogra and can make grenades, Akbar Shah police OC Sadip Kumar Das said.
Ershad was arrested around 7:30am at his shop beside the rail tracks in Baganbari Residential Area’s NR Gate after some members of Chittagong district unit Ansar had called the police finding his activities suspicious.
Abdul Hamid, platoon commander of Chittagong Ansar, told the Dhaka Tribune that while they were on patrol duty on the rail tracks, some locals sought for help to solve an altercation between Ershad and a local woman over making a phone call.
“We found that Ershad wanted to use the woman’s mobile phone to call somebody. Asked why he wanted to use another person’s phone, he tried to avoid us. Then we started enquiring about his details, went to his rented house nearby and found many suspicious and unusual objects. Later, we called the police,” Hamid said.
Police said Ershad had regular communication with two people who used to visit him at the shop.
Ershad said he became involved with Chhatra Shibir politics in 2011 as a student of Balandor High School in Dinajpur. After passing the SSC exams that year, he met with a Chhatra Shibir leader named Al Fuad alias Rocky from Gaibandha at a party meeting.
Rocky later joined the JMB in Bogra and was appointed the divisional commander of Chittagong. He then chose Ershad as the Chittagong district commander.
Police are out to arrest Rocky. Akbar Shah police said they would produce Ershad in court today.
Joint Commissioner of DB police Monirul Islam acknowledged that militant groups were regrouping across the country, mainly in Chittagong, in the wake of recent video statements of the IS and al-Qaeda.
He said the law enforcers were gathering intelligence and arresting the leaders to uproot militancy from the country. “In a proposal submitted to the Home Ministry recently, we have proposed a special force to tackle militant outfits.”