Police’s Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime unit or CTTC has said Islamist militants planned to form the new outfit Jamaatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in jail.
Citing Shakir Bin Wali, a young doctor arrested in Dhaka in September on charges of inspiring youths into militancy and recruiting them to the new extremist outfit, and other militant suspects in custody, police on Thursday also described how the group established links to tribal separatist group Bawm Party in the Chattogram Hill Tracts.
According to them, Shamin Mahfuz, said to be a co-founder of Jamaatul Ansar, had met in jail another alleged co-founder Mainul Islam alias Roxy, and Abu Sayeed, a Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami leader on death row in the Aug 21 grenade attack case.
Shamin and Mainul had been in jail on charges related to militancy and they formed the group after being released on bail in 2018, said Md Asaduzzaman, chief of CTTC.
Shamin took charge of the outfit after the arrest of its former chief Mainul last year, Asaduzzaman said. Mainul, a former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student front Islami Chhatra Shibir, had been expelled from Rangpur Cadet College.
Following information given by Shakir, police arrested Mohsin Imam Real, an agriculturist and alleged financier of the militant group, on Oct 17. Mohsin named Shamin and Mainul in his statement given to a court.
Shamin was close to Nathan Bawm, head of the separatist group Kuki-Chin National Front or KNF, known as the Bawm Party, when they were students of Dhaka University, said Asaduzzaman. Shamin studied sociology while Nathan was a student of the university’s Faculty of Fine Arts.
Mainul contacted Nathan after he faced challenges in training recruits in the hill tracts, said the CTTC chief.
They struck a deal at a hotel in Cox’s Bazar for the training of militants in exchange for money, he said.
“Mainly they spread militancy under the guise of people running a madrasa, converting people of other religions to Islam and preaching Islam. They wanted to form a large group through recruitment, financing, purchasing arms and training to use them.”
According to Asaduzzaman, the militant group recruited 70 to 80 youths with the objectives to establish a strong position in the hill tracts, conduct military training, carry out terrorist attacks and then return to the hills.
Shakir had travelled to the hill tracts every month to teach the militants how to treat a wounded person, the CTTC chief said.
The police unit arrested five suspected members of the group in Dhaka on Wednesday. The suspects were identified as Md Abdullah, 22, Md Tambul Islam, 33, Md Ziauddin, 37, Md Habibullah, 19, and Mahmudul Hasan, 18, were apprehended in Dhaka’s Demra on Wednesday.
Inspector Delwar Hossain, the investigating officer of a case against the five suspects under the Anti-Terrorism Act, sought their 10-day remand on Thursday. Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Shahidul Islam granted police two days to grill the suspects in custody.
After the recent arrests of a dozen of suspected Islamist militants, including several runaway youths, the Rapid Action Battalion said they belong to a new group called Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, formed by former members of banned militant outfits.
Citing the arrestees, the RAB also said dozens of runaway youths were taking training in the hill tracts with the help of the separatists – a rare nexus that triggered concerns over domestic and regional security.
The RAB later arrested seven militant suspects and three alleged separatists during an operation on the hill tracts. The local administrations have closed the hill tracts to the tourists for the operation.