Homegrown militant organisations including New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) are setting up hideouts in the hilly regions of the country.
Police have become certain of this since the discovery of two hideouts in Chittagong. The militants are regrouping in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts and New JMB may have a number of dens there, said Chittagong Range’s Deputy Inspector General Md Shafiqul Islam.
“New JMB might be planning to attack foreigners who are employed in development projects in Chittagong region. Besides, they had plans to carry out attacks on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway,” said the DIG.
Militants there are in possession of large quantities of deadly explosives, said a senior official of Bangladesh Police Headquarters, seeking anonymity.
“We will undertake combing operations in the region soon,” the official said.
Confrontations with law enforcement agencies since the Gulshan terrorist attack and capture or death of their top leaders have pushed New JMB away from the capital and its surrounding areas.
The group is now trying to reassert its presence by carrying sabotage across the country, said officials of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Chittagong Superintendent of Police Nur-E-Alam Mina said: “New JMB’s operational leader Moinul Islam alias Musa is staying in Chittagong region at present. The militant outfit is regrouping under his leadership.”
Law enforcement sources said Musa is now organising the members of the outfit in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari.
Rapid Action Battalion 7’s Commanding Officer Lt Col Miftah Uddin Ahmed said: “The people of Chittagong region are naturally soft about Islam, and this is something the militants have been exploiting.
“Misusing religious sentiments, the militants have brainwashed many people here.”
In the last five years, police and other law enforcement agencies have busted at least 23 hideouts of JMB, HujiB, Hizbut Tahrir, Shahid Hamza Brigade and other terrorist groups from the port city, Hathazari, Banshkhali, Sitakunda, Mirsarai, Rangunia, Cox’s Bazar and the three hill districts.
JMB bomb maker Ershad alias Fuad, arrested on March 23, 2015 from Chittagong city’s Akbar Shah area, divulged in interrogation that there were almost 500 JMB members undercover in Chittagong city, said CMP sources.
Musa, who rose to prominence in the absence of New JMB leadership, is said to be a former close aide of Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai, the executed old JMB leader.
Musa is from Bagmara, Rajshahi. He graduated in English from Dhaka College. After graduation, he started teaching at a school in Uttara, then disappeared in April last year.
A senior CTTC official seeking anonymity said police had Musa’s photograph but he was a master of disguises.
Maj (retd) Emdadul Haque, an expert on security in the region, said the trend of militants moving to Chittagong was alarming.
“Law enforcement should increase surveillance at the commercial hub of the country,” he said.
Dr Ziaur Rahman, a professor of criminology at Dhaka University, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Chittagong may be targeted for its economical importance and geographical situation but it is not their only choice.
“The militants may have their dens across the country, as evident from their activity.”
He urged that community policing be increased to prevent militancy socially.