Indian police launched a massive manhunt Monday for the suspected leader of a Bangladeshi terror cell believed to be operating in India, a day after a member of the group was arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, an official said.
The name of Mohammad Faizan, a Bangladeshi national, came up during the interrogation of Abdullah al-Mamon, another Bangladeshi who was arrested in the state’s Muzzaffarnagar town on Sunday, according to the official.
Al-Mamon, who had been staying in Uttar Pradesh since 2011, allegedly was involved in radicalizing and recruiting people for Ansarullah Bangla team (ABT), an al-Qaeda inspired extremist group which is banned in Bangladesh, police said, adding that Faizan was his handler.
“Abdullah has named quite a few of his colleagues, besides Faizan, during interrogation. We have started raiding his possible hideouts across Uttar Pradesh,” Senior Superintendent of Police of the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Umesh Kumar Srivastava told BenarNews.
The ATS has sought a 14-day remand for al-Mamon to hold him for further questioning in order to unravel his alleged links in India, Srivastava said.
“Initial investigations have revealed that he was involved in making fake Indian identity cards for Bangladeshi citizens living illegally in India. He also made Faizan’s passport on the basis of false documents,” Srivastava said.
More than a dozen fake Indian I.D. cards, a passport and Islamic extremist literature were found among al-Mamon’s possessions, he said.
Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism chief, Monirul Islam, told BenarNews that they had identified the man arrested in India.
“He is from Tarakanda in Mymensingh and has been living in India for the last eight years,” he said.
Anniversary of blogger’s murder
Bangladeshi police have blamed ABT for the murders of six secular bloggers in the country between February 2015 and May 2016, including Niladri Chottopaddhya who was hacked to death exactly two years ago on Monday.
“Two years have passed but the police have not even submitted a charge-sheet so far. They don’t communicate with us anymore. We are losing hope,” Asha Moni, Chattopaddhya’s wife, told BenarNews.
Although the police have arrested eight suspects for Chattopaddhya’s murder, a charge-sheet has not yet been filed in court, investigating officer Bahauddin Faruki told BenarNews.
“I want to submit the charge-sheet as soon as possible. There is also some pressure from the authorities to finish the investigation quickly. But since this is a case of a militant attack, I need some more time,” Faruki said.
Millions living in India without proper papers
There is no accurate figure to determine the number of Bangladeshi nationals living illegally in India, but the government last year estimated the number to be close to 20 million.
Analysts called for the government to take serious and effective steps to tackle the cross-border infiltration into India by Bangladeshi criminal elements and religious extremists.
“The infiltration is continuing despite the government’s promise to control it. If even with so much vigilance at the borders and complete knowledge of intelligence and government agencies, the cross-over happens unabated, it needs to be investigated and from all sides,” said Amit Aryan, a right-wing activist.
“The illegal smuggling of weapons by Bangladeshis has been a long-known fact. The funds generated goes into aiding terror organizations. And since Bangladeshis look like Indians, it is hard to identify and arrest them,” he told BenarNews.
Retired Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim, a New Delhi-based security expert, said Indian security forces ought to step up action against undocumented Bangladeshis, who are considered a threat to Indian security.
“The smuggling of drugs, weapons and fake currency are some of the major activities they (Bangladeshis in India) are involved in. The government agencies should step up intelligence and keep arresting them to break their networks,” Karim told BenarNews.
Prapti Rahman and Kamran Raza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.