In a press-note yesterday afternoon the home ministry said, "The government notices with concern that two organisations called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Mujahideen have been carrying out a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts causing deaths to peace-loving people and destruction of property." It said these people have been trying to create a social unrest by misleading a group of youths misusing their religious sentiments. "Under the circumstances, the government announces enforcement of ban on all activities of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Muhjahideen. Their so-called leader Dr Asadullah all Galib has already been arrested. Meanwhile, police has been ordered to intensify their activities to arrest JMJB leader Bangla Bhai," the press-note read.
Govt finally cracks down on Islamist militants
Bans JMJB, looks for Bangla Bhai; arrests RU teacher Galib
Walking up to the threat, the government yesterday banned Islamist outfits Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) accusing them of a series of bomb attacks and killings to create anarchy.
The ban following persistent denial by the government of the existence of JMJB throughout the last year coincided with yesterday's arrest of Dr Muhammad Asadullah Al Galib, chief of another Islamist militant outfit Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (Ahab), with three of his top associates in Rajshahi.
Three more JMB operatives in Gaibandha and two in Rangpur were also arrested in the belated crackdown launched yesterday on Islamist militants, particularly in the North.
Although newspapers in the last few days have revealed a long track of militant links and activities of Rajshahi University Arabic teacher Galib, police arrested him under Section 54. The arrest was made on requests from three police stations in Bogra and Gopalganj, where a number of Islamist militants arrested for murder, bomb attacks and robbery had linked him with the incidents.
Sources said the government took the steps under pressure from the donors and diplomatic quarters in the wake of an alarming rise in militant attacks across the country that claimed scores of lives in the last few months.
But State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar denied any foreign pressure. "We did not receive any international pressure to ban them. The government has done it out of its sense of responsibility," he told the BBC Bangla Service last night.
However, much to the concerns of rights organisations home and abroad, political parties, civil society and media, JMJB Amir Moulana Abdur Rahman and Operations Commander Bangla Bhai are still eluding the dragnet.
"It has not been possible to arrest Bangla Bhai. We feel very disturbed and embarrassed for this. Though we have been putting extreme pressure on police to catch Bangla Bhai, he could not be tracked down," Babar said.
But, on January 26, this minister had told the BBC: "We have no official knowledge of the existence of JMJB. Only certain so-called newspapers have been running reports on it. We have no record that any such group has formed."
And, even after yesterday's banning of the JMJB and JMB for bomb attacks and killings, Babar claimed to the BBC Radio that there is no militant organisation in the country.
"We've taken steps whenever we received such information," he said, adding the move will be on.
With yesterday's ban, the number of banned Islamist organisations now stands at three. Earlier on February 9, 2002, the government banned Shahdat al Hiqma operating in the Rajshahi region.
In a press-note yesterday afternoon the home ministry said, "The government notices with concern that two organisations called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Mujahideen have been carrying out a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts causing deaths to peace-loving people and destruction of property."
It said these people have been trying to create a social unrest by misleading a group of youths misusing their religious sentiments.
"Under the circumstances, the government announces enforcement of ban on all activities of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Muhjahideen. Their so-called leader Dr Asadullah all Galib has already been arrested. Meanwhile, police has been ordered to intensify their activities to arrest JMJB leader Bangla Bhai," the press-note read.
Explaining the background of the tough government stance, the press-note said in the recent past several incidents of attacks, bomb attacks and blasts have been carried out on different social, cultural and religious functions and several branches of Brac and Grameen Bank in different areas of the country.
It said the incidents prompted the government to intensify police vigil all over the country, resulting in the 'red-handed' arrest of a number of suspects in Bogra, Joypurhat, Sirajganj, Gaibandha, Moulvibazar, Gopalganj, Dhamrai and Savar. The police operations also led to seizure of explosives and 'objectionable books and booklets'.
"According to the confessional statements of a number of the arrestees, they all are members of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Mujahedin [, and] they are engaged in such criminal activities to achieve their objectives," the press-note said.
The note then announced that "The government wants to inform all that such activities will not be tolerated" and that it is "determined to take legal measures against whoever is engaged in terrorism or activities to frustrate peace and discipline."
ARREST OF GALIB
Our Rajshahi correspondent reports: Police arrested Galib, his second-in command Ahab Nayeb-e-Amir Shaikh Abdus Samad Salafi, Ahab General Secretary Moulana Nurul Islam and Organising Secretary ASM Azizullah in the early hours yesterday.
Salafi is also the principal of Salafi Dakhil Madrasa of Ahab-sponsored Al Markajul Islami. Nurul Islam is a lecturer of Islamic Studies at Gangni Degree College in Meherpur and Azizullah a librarian at Atrai Degree College in Mohonpur of Rajshahi.
Police said the three were held under Section 54 of Criminal Procedure Code following requests from three police stations in Bogra and Gopalganj districts. The requests came after Islamist militants arrested there in cases of murders, bomb attacks and robberies at NGO offices had linked Galib with the incidents. They alleged Galib has been leading them in actions against 'anti-Islamic activities at shrines', cultural functions and NGOs that brought women out of homes.
Intelligence sources said the government high-ups on Tuesday decided to arrest Galib and his men, and directed the police stations concerned for necessary action.
About 300 members of police, Bangladesh Rifles and Rab (Rapid Action Battalion) besieged Galib's house and his madrasa at Naodapara in Rajshahi at 2:00am yesterday. Galib and Nurul Islam were found in the house and taken to Shah Mokhdum Police Station. Salafi and Azizullah were arrested in the madrasa, from where they were taken to Boalia Police Station.
Police produced them before a court yesterday pleading to send them to jail and submitting that Galib might have links with a murder in Shahjahanpur, a bomb attack in Gabtoli and a robbery at a Brac office in Kotalipara. Police also suspected the other three arrestees to be involved in the Kotalipara robbery.
The court ordered the four to jail custody.
Police meanwhile halted preparations for a two-day annual Ahab conference scheduled to begin today in Rajshahi Truck Terminal. The podium and structures built in the ground were put off and Ahab workers were instructed to leave the place.
Police and Rab men have been deployed at the madrasa and the conference site to check any agitation.
"ISLAMIST MOVEMENT TO GO ON"
"Even if we are hanged or sent to jail, our movement for Islam will continue", Galib said at the court custody.
Reiterating that the statements against him were made and guided by a vested quarter 'either to harm our positive movement' or to hide the real culprits, he told journalists that he and his associates were not involved in any of the charges police brought against them.
AHAB, JMB & JMJB
When he was a student of Dhaka University in 1978, Galib formed Ahab's youth wing Ahle Hadith Jubo Shangha (AHJS) splitting from Jomiyat-e Ahle Hadith, three years after preparations for a Islamic revolution had begun in the country, said AHJS workers.
During the AHJS formation, Galib argued that they needed to engage in Jihad against Islamic fallacies including the mazar culture to bring an Islamic rule in the country.
Sources said Galib received funds from the Middle East through an Indian militant leader named Moulana Abdul Matin Salafi. Ershad government in 1988 expelled Salafi, engaged in the country as Muballig (religious pleader) of Soudi government, for anti-state activities. Salafi left huge Soudi money to Dr Galib, said sources.
AHJS took its base in Rajshahi as Galib joined Rajshahi University in 1980 as a lecturer resigning his job at Dhaka University teacher and started public activities in 1990.
The mainstream organisation Ahab was formed in late 1994 when he formed its women wing, welfare organisation Tawhid Trust and a publication organisation Hadith Foundation Bangladesh.
At the same time in Dhaka, the JMB started working headed by Abdur Rahman. With help from Dr Galib, Rahman's JMB militants enjoyed the 700 mosques built across the country by Revival of Islamic Heritage Society that witnessed a seize of bank accounts in Pakistan after the 9/11 incident.
Dr Galib visited Afganistan, India and Pakistan with fake travel documents since he stationed at Rajshahi. He had close relations with Kashmir militants. In 1998, he visited India with a business passport and was questioned by RU authority. The issue, however, was not still settled.
Police and intelligence sources said most of Ahab young workers have been working underground for the JMB.
The AHJS and the JMJB were formed at the same time with the same goal for turning the country into an Islamic state. Although ways of the two parties are different, a number of selected workers were responsible for launching political and underground activities in both the parties.
Corroborating the information, militants arrested from Thakurgaon, Joypurhat, Bogra and Natore told police that Dr Galib used to lead them and see them at Ahle Hadith mosques.
The militants have designs of training and codes for uniting to others and were inspired in actions against 'Islamic fallacies at mazars and NGOs'.
The JMJB amir Maolana Abdur Rahman and Ahab amir Dr Galib were known well to each other. Spiritual leader of Bangla Bhai, Rahman appeared before public in Rajshahi's Bagmara in April last year. He studied in Madina University in Saudi Arabia at Dr Galib's recommendation and joined Dr Galib back from the university.
A former colleague of Dr Galib, Rezaul Karim told The Daily Star that Galib introduced Rahman to him. "I heard them talking on whether armed struggle for Islamic rule would be viable or not," he said.
But talking to The Daily Star, Dr Galib denied all allegations against him and said that the allegations are mere propaganda made by those who were expelled from his organisation in 2001.
"Allegation of militancy began in 2001 when we expelled two persons from our organisation", he said naming Rezaul Karim, a professor of Bogra Azizul Haque College and RU Assistant Registrar Shafiqul Islam.
Asked about a Ahab notice in 2000 claiming it has no involvement with militant outfit 'Qital Fee Sabilillah' that drummed for Islamic revolution, Galib said: "Those were not published in newspapers".
About Abdur Rahman, he said, "I know him as son of an Islamic scholar and saw him once, but never met him after he returned from Madina."
Asked about Salafi, he said, "He was a man whom our country needs most. Driving him out from the country was a conspiracy."