Bangladeshi law enforcement officials on Thursday arrested a man suspected of serving as an adviser to the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh(JMB).
Lutfor Rahman, 56, who was arrested in northern Rajshahi district, had advised the militant group’s top two leaders, Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqur Rahman, who were both executed eight years ago, authorities said.
The suspect also was active in reorganizing the JMB after it had become virtually dormant, according to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the law enforcement unit that took Lutfor Rahman into custody.
“He was involved in the planning of large-scale violence and killing in the Rajshahi area in 2004,” Maj. Kamruzzaman Pavel, RAB’s deputy commander in Rajshahi, told reporters.
“There are 10 cases against him and he recently returned to Rajshahi after getting bail from the High Court,” he added.
The battalion had obtained information that, after posting bail, Rahman was trying to reorganize JMB in Rajshahi, Kamruzzaman said.
“On the basis of that information, we launched an operation Thursday morning and arrested him from Bagmara upazilla,” he said.
Rahman’s arrests followed last week’s capture of eight suspected JMB members in a suburb of Dhaka, including the group’s acting leader, Abu Talha Mohammad Fahim (also known as Pakhi).
According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police, the eight planned to attack installations in and around Dhaka and assassinate a number of prominent people. The eight also planned to carry out a jail break to free JMB emir Maulana Sayedur Rahman and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) leader Mufti Jashimuddin Rahmani, police alleged.
ABT is an Islamist group suspected of killing three secular bloggers in Bangladesh in three separate attacks this year.
Shaikh Abdur Rahman launched JMB in early-2000 with a mission of turning Bangladesh into a Sharia-ruled state.
He and some of his followers reportedly were veterans of the war in Afghanistan, where they fought against U.S. forces deployed there.
After he returned to Bangladesh in 2004, the JMB shot into prominence. The group launched synchronized bomb attacks across Bangladesh in 2005, which killed 28 people and injured dozens.
Two judges in southern Barguna were among those killed in the attacks a decade ago. Abdur Rahman and Siddiqur Rahman, along with five other defendants, were hanged after being captured and found guilty of carrying out the deadly bombings.
Militancy may not be crushed completely: analyst
In the opinion of analyst Mohiuddin Ahmed, the recent activities of some lesser-known militant groups and the arrest of the suspected JMB adviser point to how difficult it is to wipe out religious extremism completely from Bangladesh.
“The claimed arrest of the JMB adviser only underscores the fact that it’s hard to win the battle against militancy,” Ahmed, a columnist who writes frequently about religious extremism, told BenarNews.
He also cautioned against jumping to conclusions until the facts come out and the suspect, Lutfor Rahman, stands trial.
In addition, Ahmed said he harbored doubts about whether the government really wants total elimination of extremism from the country.
“Look at the way the government is coddling the Hefazat leaders,” he added, referring to the Hefazat-e-Islam, whose top leader Allama Shafi, is often seen on television, showering blessings on figures like the newly elected mayor of Chittagong and even an a army major-general.
Hefazat is a madrassa-based organization that represents 70,000 schools nationwide.
In 2013, the organization staged a sit-in protest in Dhaka, in which it demanded that sharia law be implemented in the country. The protest turned so violent that the government launched an all-out attack to remove the protesters, resulting in the deaths of 65 people and injuries to hundreds.