Operatives of two Bangladeshi militant groups have infiltrated India and together are plotting attacks in major cities including the Indian capital, according to a classified intelligence report accessed by BenarNews.
Members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) extremist groups crossed the border into northeast India, and have formed a joint team that is planning a series of attacks, the report said.
“[T]he secretary of JMB, Iftadur Rehman, has entered India on Jan. 12 on [a] fake passport and has established contact with linkmen in Assam and West Bengal. He is also scheduled to visit Delhi,” said the report, which cited inputs from intelligence sources.
“There are reports that the combined team of [JMB and HuJI] is planning big attacks in major centers in India,” it added.
Iftadur Rehman, whose real name is Sajjad Hussain, is a native of Moulvibazar in northeast Bangladesh, a senior official of India’s Border Security Force (BSF), told BenarNews.
“We have credible information that on Jan. 18, a meeting between linkmen from Assam, West Bengal and New Delhi and top JMB and HuJI leadership has taken place in the Mymensingh district of Bangladesh,” the official said, adding that authorities in New Delhi had already been informed of the developments.
Key members of JMB and HuJI met in the Bangaon area of Bangladesh’s Sylhet district on Jan. 24 to chalk out plans for attacks in India, the report said. Officials of Pakistan’s external intelligence agency ISI were also present at this meeting, it added.
HuJI is an Islamist fundamentalist organization most active in Bangladesh and Pakistan since the late 1980s. The group was banned in Bangladesh in 2005. And Bangladeshi officials have blamed a faction of the JMB, called Neo-JMB, for a terrorist attack that killed 20 hostages at a café in Dhaka in July 2016.
Indian national Mohammad Mosihuddin (alias Abu Musa), a suspected IS operative who was arrested in West Bengal just days after the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery café, told counter-terror interrogators that he was asked to set up an IS cell in India by Abu Suleiman, a JMB operative allegedly linked to the café siege, an official with India’s National Investigation Agency told BenarNews last year.
NIA officials also said JMB was affiliated with Islamic State (IS), but Bangladeshi officials have consistently denied that the Middle East-based terror outfit has a presence in their country.
Bangladesh police confirms information
“Neo-JMB is the party that nurtures IS’s ideology and is responsible for recent atrocities,” Monirul Islam, the chief of Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism and transnational unit, told BenarNews.
Bangladeshi authorities have killed at least 34 suspected militants in raids carried out since the July 1-2 café siege.
Islam admitted that “a number of Neo-JMB leaders” had fled to India.
“At present we do not know how many of them have fled to India, but there are some. We have information that the new JMB chief, Salauddin Salehin is there,” Islam said.
Shariful Islam, alias Khaled, a suspected killer of A.F.M. Rezaul Karim Siddique, a professor at Rajshahi University who was hacked to death in April 2016, also fled to India as did Ripon, a militant who is alleged to have played a role in the café attack, according to Islam.
Gen. Mohammad Moniruzzaman, assistant inspector general in Bangladesh’s counter terrorism unit, said militants from Bangladesh could easily cross into India because of the long and porous border that separates the countries.
“It happens and we are keeping in touch with security forces in India to combat this situation,” he told BenarNews.
Bangladesh and India share a 4,096 km- (2,545 mile)-long international border, the fifth-longest land border in the world, including 262 km (162 miles) in Assam, 856 km (532 miles) in Tripura, 180 km (112 miles) in Mizoram, 443 km (275 miles) in Meghalaya, and 2,217 km (1,378 miles) in West Bengal.
It is natural for Bangladeshi extremists to find a safe haven to regroup and make their presence felt after facing crackdowns from the Bangladeshi government following the Dhaka attack, a security analyst said.
“JMB has long used India as a hideout, or a safe haven. At the same time, it also engages in recruitment, especially youths from far-flung Muslim dominated areas of Assam and West Bengal. These places are nearer to JMB strongholds in northern and north-western Bangladesh,” G.M. Srivastava, a Guwahati-based expert, told BenarNews.
“There are estimates that there might be more than 70 JMB modules already active in India,” he added.
Prapti Rahman in Dhaka contributed to this report.