A top operative of a Bangladeshi militant group and suspected mastermind of an explosion at the Buddhist holy site of Bodh Gaya earlier this year has been arrested in southern India, the National Investigation Agency said Tuesday.
An NIA team arrested Mohammed Jahidul Islam, 38, in Ramanagara, near Bengaluru city in the southern state of Karnataka, and recovered electronic devices as well as traces of explosives during a search of his house, an NIA press release said.
A Bangladesh national, Islam was sentenced to life in prison in 2009 for his part in an attack on a police station, but escaped after Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants fired on a prison van and snatched its occupants in a dramatic daylight operation in Mymensingh, in central Bangladesh, in 2014.
An explosives expert who has four aliases – Kausar, Munna, Mizan and Boma Mizan – Islam vanished and became a top JMB operative in India, authorities said.
"He is the mastermind in the Bodh Gaya case. On his directions Mustafizur Rehman alias Shahin, who is his close associate, had arranged and assembled all the explosives for the incident," the NIA statement said.
A low intensity bomb went off near the Kalachakra grounds in Bodh Gaya on Jan. 19, minutes after the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, completed a workshop there. Police recovered 110 pounds of ammonium nitrate, electronic devices, gloves and militant literature.
Authorities said they could not confirm whether the bombs were intended to target the Dalai Lama. No casualties were reported.
Suspected JMB members arrested in connection with the blast reportedly confessed that it was meant to retaliate against atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. More than 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar live in southeastern Bangladesh.
Islam was also wanted for the October 2014 Burdwan blast in West Bengal and in many cases in Bangladesh, the NIA said. In the accidental blast in West Bengal state, two alleged JMB members were killed while assembling explosives in a house used as a hideout.
Islam was produced Tuesday before the Special Court for NIA cases in Bengaluru, which granted officers five days to transfer him to a similar court in Patna, in eastern India. Patna is the capital of Bihar state, where Bodh Gaya is located.
A spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Masudur Rahman, said Indian authorities told them about the arrest.
"He is one of the most wanted accused. After arresting him, India has informally contacted Bangladesh about him," he said.
Bangladesh shares a large part of its 2,545-mile border with India in West Bengal and Assam states in eastern India.
A faction of the JMB is blamed for a terrorist siege that killed 29 people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, at an upscale café in Dhaka in July 2016. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.