August 17 countrywide series blasts :JMB now banking on other groups
Although law enforcers managed to weaken mainstream JMB after the militant outfit carried out a synchronised bomb attack across the country on this day in 2005, its members have raised their ugly heads on a few occasions after absorbing into like-minded terror groups.
Those members were found involved in some sensational militant activities which grabbed the headlines in the intervening years, much to the worry of law enforcers.
Besides, the so-called ameer of the outfit -- Salahuddin Ahmed alias Salehin -- has established mainstream JMB's links with al-Qaeda's Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) wing in recent years, counterterrorism officials said.
Salehin is believed to be hiding in India after militants snatched him from a prison van in Mymensingh in March 2015.
Militant outfit Ansar Al Islam claims to be the Bangladesh chapter of AQIS. And JMB members worked with the group on several occasions due to similarities in their ideologies, the officials said.
For instance, counterterrorism officials said militants from both outfits were involved in the assassination of Shahjahan Bachchu on June 11, 2019 in Munshiganj. The publisher and writer was killed by JMB, which used information from Ansar Al Islam for the killing mission.
Both militant groups even have similar web pages.
Besides, JMB operatives were also found joining with IS-inspired outfit "Neo JMB" and taking part in their activities.
Take Md Enayet, a member of mainstream JMB, for example.
He joined JMB in 2001 and was arrested in 2006 by Rab in an explosives case filed against him with Gazipur Police Station. He is now in Kashimpur jail.
Quoting internal sources, counterterrorism officials said Enayet has now gotten connected with "Neo JMB" and is working to spread the scourge of militancy inside the jail.
Enayet was drawn to the world of militancy by the emergence of Islamic State (IS), said a senior official of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, requesting anonymity.
Recently, another mainstream JMB operative -- Ruhulla -- joined Enayet in the jail, the official said.
The CTTC official claimed to have gotten the information following intelligence surveillance and interrogation of two militants who were arrested recently.
On August 17, 2005, banned terror outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) almost simultaneously detonated 459 bombs in 63 out of 64 districts of the country. After the synchronised attacks, 159 cases were lodged across the country. Police have completed probing the cases.
They submitted final reports in 17 cases and charge sheets in 142 others. In the charge sheets, 1,131 JMB leaders and activists were named as accused, according to data from the police headquarters.
Of the accused, around 1,023 militants were arrested. However, there is no updated data about how many of them are now behind bars.
"Although most of the JMB members lead a normal life after walking out of jail, some 20 to 30 old JMB operatives have gone into hiding and are trying to recruit new members," said an official of CTTC unit.
CTTC chief Md Asaduzzaman said most of the JMB leaders were arrested and some of them were executed in cases over the attacks. "The arrest and execution of the top leaders shattered the strength of JMB. The outfit tried to recoup but failed due to drives by law enforcers," he said.
The outfit may have some supporters but its organisational strength is weak, said Asaduzzaman.
Asked, the CTTC chief said the JMB operatives who walked out of jail were under their surveillance.
On JMB members getting involved with other militant outfits, he said there was no official confirmation on it. "Some of the JMB operatives may joined Neo JMB due to reasons associated with ideology. But we treat all militants in the same manner. Due actions are taken against them," he added.
JMB NOW HAS TWO THOUSAND MEMBERS
According to intelligence sources, JMB, which was formed by Shaikh Abdur Rahman in 1998, has around 2,000 members now.
The outfit still has a strong base in some places in 12 districts -- Mymensingh, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Kurigram, Rangpur, Bogra, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Chapainawabganj, said CTTC officials.
Although Salehin is the ameer of the outfit, Rezaul Haque alias Tanvir Mahmud used to coordinate its operation in Bangladesh. Tanvir was arrested by CTTC in April this year and since then there has been no update on the outfit's present chief, said investigators.
"JMB may hold a strong position in some districts, but we are aware of their activities and conducting drives to arrest its absconding members," said Rahmat Ullah Chowdhury, additional deputy commissioner of CTTC unit.
SOURCE OF FUND
The CTTC said JMB now completely depends on funding from local donations and conducting crimes like robbery, snatching and mugging to collect funds.
Around Tk seven to eight lakh was collected during Ramadan. Of the funding, Tk three to four lakh came from places of the northern part of the country, Tk three lakh came from Mymensingh region, Tk 20 to 25 thousand from Gazipur and Tk 15 to 20 thousand from Khulna.
Sources said that a man named Abdullah from Narayanganj was a financer. He was an expatriate in South Africa. But recently he died and funds have stopped coming from him.
The outfit is providing financial support to families of their arrested members, said sources. They pay around Tk two thousand to Tk five thousand monthly to some 60 such families.
Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) also thinks that the JMB's strength has weakened organisationally.
Talking with The Daily Star yesterday, Wing Commander Khandaker Al Moni, director of Rab's legal and media wing, said, "The outfit's strength is weak but we are not conducting drives whenever we get information."
Rab has so far arrested some 1,373 JMB men since 2004.
Md Mahfuzul Islam, deputy commissioner of CTTC unit, said they were providing social and financial support to militant leaders and supporters coming out of jail under a rehabilitation programme.
"So far, we have approached around 24 militants, who came out of jail, for social integration. But only eight of them take financial support from us and most of them were from mainstream JMB," he said.
Mahfuzul said they are also working to ensure a de-radicalisation programme inside the prisons.
"We are expecting that we will be able to start the de-radicalisation programme in prison in this running fiscal year," he told The Daily Star yesterday.