Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion on Thursday arrested five suspected members of militant group Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami’s (HuJI), saying they planned to launch attacks and help their leader escape from jail.
A day after the Bangladeshi Supreme Court upheld death sentences for HuJI founder Mufti Abdul Hannan and two aides in an attempted assassination on the British High Commissioner in 2004, officers arrested the five during a raid in Chittagong, RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters on Thursday.
Hannan and his two aides have been condemned to the gallows over a grenade attack that killed three people and critically injured then-British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury. Bangladesh banned HuJI in 2005.
“They had been dormant for long after the arrest of their top leaders, but recently they have been trying to reorganize,” Khan said of HuJI.
RAB members on Wednesday evening arrested HuJI members Tajul Islam and Nazim Uddin from the A.K. Khan Gate area in Chittagong.
Based on information from the suspects, RAB launched a raid hours later at a house in Colonel Hat area and arrested three more alleged HuJI members – Abujar Gifari, Nure Alam and Iftesham Ahmed. The suspects were in police custody on Thursday.
Khan said HuJI had been planning to steal weapons by attacking law enforcement agencies and later snatching Hannan and his aides when police transported them to court for hearings. Tajul Islam, a disciple of Hannan, had been trying to organize HuJI in the port city of Chittagong.
RAB recovered two handguns, seven magazines of bullets, 12 hand-made grenades and bomb-making materials and explosives, knives, machetes and jihadi books. Khan said the HuJI members destroyed electronic devices and papers before their arrest.
“Look, the militants sometimes gather under the banner of the JMB (Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh), sometimes Ansar al Islam, sometimes HuJI,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews. “But we will crush them at any cost.”
‘They did not mix with anyone’
Abdul Alim, a Colonel Hat area resident, told BenarNews that members of the HuJI cell had rented the house a couple of months ago.
“They were mysterious in their behavior. They did not mix with anyone,” he said, thanking RAB for the arrests.
Shahriar Ahmed, a student at Mirpur Bangla College, said JMB militants in the past had snatched prisoners from a police van while they were being taken to the court from the jail.
“This is very usual that they (HuJI) would try to carry out sabotage as their top leaders’ executions are imminent,” Ahmed told BenarNews. “Authorities should beef up security of the prison vans.”
Bad year for Bangladesh
Bangladeshi authorities have blamed a faction of JMB for a terrorist attack that left 29 people dead at a café in Dhaka in July, including 20 hostages who were hacked to death during the overnight siege.
Before the July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe, Bangladesh had been gripped by a series of deadly-machete attacks by suspected militants, who targeted secular writers and members of religious minorities, among others.
According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, which recently published its 2016 Global Terrorism Index, the year 2015 was the deadliest one for terrorist attacks in Bangladesh in at least 15 years.
As many as 459 attacks killed 75 people in Bangladesh, which accounted for 4 percent of terrorist attacks worldwide last year, the institute reported. As a result, it ranked Bangladesh No. 22 out of 130 countries on its annual terror index. On the previous year’s index, Bangladesh ranked as the 25th most dangerous country for terrorism.