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JMB and it's Assam connect: how the terror module's reach runs deep

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 12 August 2016, 10:30 IST
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Investigations so far

  • 2 more people have been arrested in connection with the Bangladesh terror attacks
  • Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Haseeb have been placed under police custody
  • Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the attacks


More in the story

  • JMB\'s Assam connect
  • Details about JMB the police have uncovered

More than a month after the horrific attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi Counter Terrorism officials are on their toes, trying to bust multiple terror outfits operating in the country.

The Dhaka attack has come as a challenge as reports emerge of mergers of terror outfits known to operate in the country.

The Rapid Action Battalion, which arrested six militants from various places in Dhaka, claim that they belong to an outfit called Daulatal-ul-Islam, formed possibly after a merger of teams of operatives belonging to the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team.

Also Read: Dhaka terror attack: Two arrested in connection with bloodbath at Holey Artisan Bakery

Earlier, there was also reports that this new outfit is funding Hizbut Tahrir. And, according to the local Bangladeshi press, is suspected to have ties with the ISIS as well.

Earlier, last week, detectives formally arrested two more people suspected to be involved in the attack.

Of those arrested, one individual is a foreign national of Bangladeshi origin, while the other studied at the University of Toronto and reportedly arrived in Dhaka just a day before the attack.

The mastermind of the attack, Tamim Chowdhury according to the authorities in Dhaka, also happens to be a Canadian national.

Hasnat Karim, a British citizen of UK and Tahmid Haseeb, a student of the University of Toronto, have finally been placed under arrest and remanded to 10 days of police custody by a local Dhaka Court.

Both of them were present at the bakery, in the heart of Gulshan, the diplomatic neighbourhood, when the attackers had killed almost 21 people, mostly foreigners.

The police claim that the actions of both these individuals were suspect throughout the night of the attack. Amateur video footage shows at least one of them, Hasnat Karim, talking to the attackers, smoking on the terrace as the terrorists held others hostage.

Both of them had been in custody for over a month now. The police, had interestingly, now shown them as 'arrested', leading to protests by their families, and human rights groups.

Karim, who briefly taught at the North South University, also taught one of the attackers and had been under investigation for his links to Hizbut Tahrir, a banned radical outfit.

Several academics at the North South University were sacked for their suspected involvement in propagating the violent ideology of Hizbut Tahrir.

Homegrown terror

Meanwhile, in Dhaka, the authorities continue to say that the Dhaka attack is a handiwork of a new module of homegrown JMB.

Information about Daulatul Islam does clear some of the confusion, after weeks of criticism of Bangladeshi security officials and government's reluctance to accept the involvement of any foreign group.

Amarnath Amarsingham, a fellow at George Washington University's Program on Extremism who works on foreign fighters and jihadism, is happy that the law enforcement agencies are trying to catch the right people.

"I think for Bangladesh it is a bizarre political choice. Those in power maybe see greater benefit in blaming opposition groups and local jihadist groups like JMB, than acknowledging the presence of international linkages. On the other hand, the way the law enforcement has been arresting operatives inside the country suggests that they know what they are doing. So, whatever the politicians want to say, I'm glad law enforcement is tracking the right people," he told Catch.

The counter-terror officials in Dhaka had earlier said that the new module is headed by Chowdhury, who came back from Canada reportedly in October 2013, and has been living under multiple identities in Bangladesh, plotting attacks.

The security officials came to this conclusion, after the recent raid in Kalyanpur, where several suspected terrorists were killed and one of them was arrested alive.

Rakibul Hasan, the arrested terrorist, said that Chowdhury would visit the hideout in Kalyanpur, give funds and explosives for the attacks and radicalise them.

There were also reports that the Chowdhury and other members of his group may have fled to India.

JMB in Assam

Indeed, JMB has a presence in Assam and West Bengal. In Assam, for instance, there have been several arrests over the past several months, of operatives said to be associated with the terror group.

The Assam Police, in operations spread over the last few months have arrested as many as 35 persons linked to JMB.

Also Read:What were Jamat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh men doing in Bodo areas?

Most of them were arrested from areas in the violence hit BTC, which again saw a lone wolf attack in Kokrajhar by an NDFB(S) operative last Friday.

Interestingly, the way the NDFB(S) operative carried out the attack, indiscriminately firing on civilians, including Bodos in a market, led to rumours, that the outfit wanted to pass it off as a Jihadi attack, to divert the attention of security forces towards outfits like JMB.

Also read: Lone wolf? Kokrajhar attacker was probably an NDFB(S) cadre gone rogue

Two of these suspected JMB operatives were arrested last month. Sources in the police claimed that several of them are still at large.

"We believe that they are in Assam and may be living in districts like Barpeta," said the source. NIA is also said to be looking for them, the source said. Assam Police had busted a camp in Daukhanagar village in Chirang district earlier last year.

The police claimed that the arrested individuals were being trained to handle sophisticated arms and were indoctrinated in jihadi ideology.

The police had recovered several country-made weapons including replicas of Kalashnikovs, army fatigues and jihadist videos from their cell phones.

Radicalisation

Daukhanagar, the police source said, is home to several families who were displaced in the riots and the camp was setup with a view to launch attacks on Bodos.

The conflict involving Bodos, the Bengali speaking Muslims and Adivasis, has led to many riots in the past. The two communities have often been at the receiving end of violence.

"There is a readymade grievance amongst this group which is leading to radicalisation," the source pointed out. He explained how most of them are illiterate, daily wagers and prone to being easily lured.

"During interrogation of these people we found that they are not even followers of a particular school of thought or ideology," the source said. The region has had several armed groups associated with different communities. The sense of victimhood is being exploited by people associated with the JMB, the source claimed.

"Most of the time, these foot soldiers do not even have an inkling that they are working for the JMB. It is only the top two-three people who are directly associated with the group," the source added.

Police say that one Ashiq Bhai and Mufti Shah, two top operatives, arrested after raids at the Daukhanagar camp were in touch with one Shahanur Alam, said to be involved in the 2014 Burdwan blasts.

Alam, who the police believe is a JMB operative, was arrested from Barpeta in December 2014.

Interestingly, there have been some positive developments as well. The police source pointed out the case of one of the individuals who was arrested in the same case and is now out on bail. A kung fu trainer from Gwalpara was part of the Daukhanagar module and is being de-radicalised since he came out on bail.

"His villagers in Gwalpara have socially boycotted him, saying that they will not tolerate anyone involved in any terror activity," the source said while adding that how this is having a good impact.

"Now as the word spreads, it will become difficult for these unlawful organisations to lure people," he explained.

Since, the police, the paramilitary and the army are also deployed in the region to capture the Bodo militants associated with NDFB(S), the terror outfit associated with several instances of violence, "Here they can't even say that we are selectively targeting a particular community," the source said.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 12 August 2016, 10:30 IST
 
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