By Amanur Aman, back from Meherpur and Jhenidah
Banned Islamist militants organisations are regrouping their cadres in southwestern districts.At least 12,000 trained cadres are active in the region covering Kushtia, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Jessore, Khulna, Narail and Satkhira, according to intelligence sources. Most of them are madrassa student.
They belong to five militant outfits– Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), Harktul Jihad (Huji) Hizbut Towhid, Jgrata Muslim Janata (JMJ) and Muslim Guerilla Sangshtha (MGS).
Police arrested around 100 militants at different times in the region–26 in Kushtia in 2003 and 2006; 35 five in Jhenidah in 2004 and four in Satkhira on May 22 this year.
It was gathered from different sources that a good number of militants who fled their areas and crossed the border after the crackdown following the August 17 serial bomb blasts in 2005 have returned to their respective areas and started activities.
On April 13 this year, police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) in separate drives arrested Anisur Rahman, Meherpur district chief of Hizbut Towhid and its Gangni upazila unit chief Saharul along with seven activists from Harbhanga village in Gangni upazila. Firearms, sword, books and leaflets calling for Jihad were also recovered.
The arrestees told police that they dedicated their lives to the cause of ‘Islam’ and they were out for ‘Jihad’ (holy war) to establish an ‘Islamic state in Bangladesh.
In another drive, Rab-6 arrested two JMB leaders from Ullahpara village in Kaliganj upazila in Jhenidah.
On May 22, joint forces arrested four Huji men including women at Shetpur village in Kaliganj upazila in Satkhira.
This correspondent recently visited Harbhanga village in Gngni upazila in Meherpur and Ullahpara in Kaliganj upazila in Jhenidah.
In Meherpur, Hizbut was quite active in at least six villages in Gangni upazila in the recent past allegedly due to police inaction. The villages are Debipur, Chatian, Baout, Harbhanga, Karamdi and Katdah.
Police said they could not arrest Hizbut men in the area as they were operating under the banner of Tablig Jamaat.
The militants would call on villagers to join them to establish Islamic rule, rejecting all ‘manmade’ laws.
Ramzan Ali of Chatian village and Basir Uddin of Baout used to train recruits at secret places in the evening. The training would continue till late night.
Asked about militants, Meherpur Additional Police Superintendent Proloy Chishim said they are hunting for Hizbut Touhid activists in several areas of the district. He however claimed that situation is under control after arrest of eight Hizbut men including their district chief. All are now in Meherpur jail.
According to sources, JMB cadres were using remote Ullahpara village in Kaliganj upazila as a training centre for last several years. Rab identified the house of one Abu Hasan, an Imam of a local mosque, as the leader of the outfit in the area.
Sources said one Zakir Hossain of Bhitswar village in the same upazila was a trainer who organised JMB activities in the area.
Some villagers told this correspondent that Zakir with Imam Abu Hasan often arranged meeting and called local people mostly young and teenage and teach them what is ‘Jihad and why it is necessary for all Muslims’.
Police said Imam Hasan and Zakir were involved with JMB.
During their arrest, Rab also recovered bomb-making materials including explosives and Jihadi books written by executed JMB leader Khaled Saifullah.
Jhenidah was a stronghold of JMB because during study at Kushtia Islamic University, JMB ‘operations commander’ Ataur Rahman Sunny organized several dens in different areas of the district where he trained JMB men in use of arms.
Local people demolished one of such JMB dens at Nagpara village in Sailkupa upazila in December 2003.
This was revealed by JMB Jhenidah second-in-command Bulbul Ahmed alias Abu Zar. Bulbul was in charge of August 17 blasts in Jhenidah were arrested on November 23, 2005.
According to Bulbul’s information, Sunny trained at least 500 JMB activists.
Local people also said Harkatul Jihad Chief Mufti Hannan often came to Nagpara before his arrest.
Jhenidah Police Superintendent Zillur Rahman, when contacted, said “We are very much alert about militants’ activities in the district”.
- Daily Star (Dhaka, May 27, 2007)