In prison, still ominous
Slack monitoring allows JMB to regroup
M Abul Kalam Azad and Rafiul Islam: Banned Islamist outfit Jama’tul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that carried out countrywide bomb attacks nine years back still poses threat of terror attacks.
The government’s flagging socio-political campaign against militancy and slackness in monitoring JMB activities since 2012 has given the outfit space to regroup, believe many officials of intelligence agencies.
Hundreds of JMB operatives were arrested after the bomb attacks left one dead and more than a hundred others wounded in 63 districts on August 17, 2005.
According to official statistics, 478 JMB men have been tried in 177 cases between 2007 and 2014. Of them, 51 top leaders of the outfit have been sentenced to death, 178 given life term and 245 jailed for various terms.
Around 250 more, accused in the cases, remain out of police dragnet.
Many others, arrested in the cases, slipped through legal loopholes and rejoined the militant outfit, only to increase the threat of terror attacks, said officials, referring to the February 23 attack on a prison van that was carrying three high-profile JMB leaders from a Gazipur jail to a Mymensingh court.
They are Rakib Hasan Russell alias Hafez Mahmud, Salauddin Ahmed alias Salehin and Zahidul Islam alias “Boma” Mizan.
Hafez was later killed in a police shootout while in custody. But Salehin, in-charge of the JMB in Sylhet and Mymensingh, and Mizan, an explosives expert, are still at large, causing a massive headache for law enforcers.
Against this backdrop, the government has decided to strengthen its monitoring on militant outfits. It is also looking for a way to expedite the process of executing 54 militants who are on death row.
They have been sentenced to death in different cases. But they are yet to be executed as they face several more cases.
Wishing anonymity, a senior police official said, “Execution of the condemned militants has become essential as transporting them from jails to courts for hearing in the cases is very risky.”
Besides, the militants get the chance to meet each other in courts and discuss about their organisations. “They can influence others,” said the official.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Khan said monitoring on all militant outfits has been stepped up.
“We are keeping track of those coming out of jails. In many cases, they are arrested so that they cannot rejoin their outfits,” he said.
In the name of establishing Shariah (Islamic law), the JMB started operating in Rajshahi, Natore and Naogaon in 2004 when the BNP-led four-party alliance government was in power.
Aided and abetted by some ministers, lawmakers, four-party alliance leaders, and members in local administration and police, vigilante gangs of the JMB terrorised people in the name of ridding the northern districts of outlawed Sarbahara and Purbo Banglar Communist Party. They killed at least 22 people and injured scores during that time.
The militant outfit managed to establish a strong network and carried out the countrywide bomb attacks. The network was dismantled following the arrest of its leaders and busting of dens across the country.
JMB chief Shaikh Abdur Rahman, its operations commander Bangla Bhai and four other top leaders were executed in 2007.
Identifying militancy as a social problem, the Awami League government in its previous term had launched socio-political and religious campaigns against militancy in 2009.