This week’s militant attacks in Gazipur and Comilla and on Wednesday’s in Chittagong reveal that the new outfit of the banned Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is reforming outside Dhaka, counter-terrorism sources have said.
Law enforcement agencies say since the Gulshan attack they have broken the outfit’s high command by arresting most of the leaders and active organisers. Many militants including the group’s military commander Tamim Chowdhury were killed in several raids in Dhaka and its surrounding areas.
However, the remaining militants may be trying to regroup in remote areas and planning another big devastation, said police officials.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit, after an overnight drive, discovered one JMB hideout in Chittagong’s Mirsarai upazila early on Wednesday where 29 live handmade grenades as well as a massive quantity of bomb-making materials were recovered.
The two arrestees Hasan and Jashim – who attacked a Highway Police patrol team on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway in Comilla on Tuesday – had been in the Mirsarai hideout from February 1, said Chittagong Superintendent of Police Nur-E-Alam Mina.
Chittagong Metropolitan Police’s Bomb Disposal Unit said three large grenades, out of the 29, were totally different. Likes of those had not been seen before in terrorist busts.
A member of CMP’s Bomb Disposal Unit, seeking anonymity, said that the recovered items indicate that the militants were producing bombs before fleeing away. Nine bombs were fully made and 20 were half done.
“A total of 280 packets of splinters, 40 packets of explosive gel, machetes, 11kg bomb-making materials were found from the rented flat. These can be used to make about 200-300 hand grenades,” the source said; adding that each of the bombs can cause an explosion covering an area of 20-metre radius.
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A member of Chittagong Metropolitan Police Bomb Disposal Unit diffuses one of the bombs found in the Mirsarai hideout DHAKA TRIBUNE
Chittagong SP Mina said: “Militants who were in the hideout had fled before police went. There were seven to eight militants there.”
He said more of such militant hideouts were in the region and the police were trying to locate them.
Local BNP leader Ridwanul Haque, owner of Ridwan Manjil, where the militants made their hideout, claimed that a man named Mahmudul Hasan rented the groud floor on February 1 with another man, woman and toddler while posing as a clothes trader.
Later, Mirsarai police station ASP Mahbubur Rahman said that house owner Ridwanul had been detained after new information was unearthed by investigators.
He added that a case had been filed with Mirsarai police station against 10 JMB members in connection with the recovered explosives and bomb making materials.
Law enforcers also conducted drives in Shantir Haat and Talatola Chouki areas in Patiya upazila on Tuesday night, said Sheikh Md Neyamat Ullah, officer-in-charge of Patiya police station, without providing further details.
On Monday evening, an attempt was made to snatch Harkat-ul Jihad leader Mufti Hannan, one of the biggest militant masterminds, from a prison van in Tongi when he and some of his associates were being taken to Kashimpur Jail after a court hearing.
Police arrested one Mostafa Kamal, who attacked the prison van with a pair of crude bombs. The man missed and the bombs exploded harmlessly on the road.
The day after, Mahmudul Hasan and Jashim Uddin hurled crude bombs at the on-duty Highway Police in Comilla during a routine check on passenger buses. A backpack, containing several handmade bombs, was seized from Hasan’s possession.
CTTC Additional Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mannan said: “The recovered explosives are very similar to the grenades used in the Gulshan attack.
“It seems like JMB militants are going out of Dhaka and making hideouts in different remote areas, especially in the hilly regions.”
“The leaderless JMB men might have planned to conduct further subversive activities across the country,” said another high official of CTTC, seeking anonymity.
The official added that the militants collect the explosives from the separatist outfits in the hill tracts which are active in the border areas.
“The two JMB militants who hurled bombs at the Highway Police during a vehicle search in Comilla and were later arrested are specially trained and had plans to launch big attacks,” said Comilla SP Md Shah Abid Hasan.
Chittagong Range’s Deputy Inspector General Shafikul Islam said: “Police are investigating the detainees while drives are going on as per their information.”