An Indian court on Friday allowed the country’s top counter-terror unit to interrogate a suspected member of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for 10 days in connection with a 2014 blast in West Bengal that uncovered the presence of the banned extremist outfit in India.
The court order came after a special police task force arrested Indian national Burhan Sheikh in Kolkata, capital of northeastern Indian state of West Bengal, on Thursday.
Sheikh, 30, is one of 34 people accused of causing the accidental blast that killed two suspected JMB operatives inside a two-story house that the extremists were using as a hideout in West Bengal’s Burdwan district on Oct. 2, 2014.
The explosion occurred while alleged JMB members were building explosives to be used in attacks in Bangladesh aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, according to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India's top counter-terror unit. Bangladesh shares its border with India in West Bengal and Assam states.
Of the 34 accused, 27 have been arrested while the remaining seven, including three Bangladeshi nationals, remain at large, officials said.
Sheikh, a West Bengal native, carried a bounty of 300,000 rupees (U.S. $4,678) on his head, Shyamal Ghosh, NIA’s counsel, told BenarNews.
“He will be interrogated over the course of the next 10 days and charges will be framed against him after that,” Ghosh said.
JMB, launched by Shaikh Abdur Rahman in Dhaka in April 1998, was banned by the Bangladesh government in February 2005. The 2014 blast exposed the terror group’s presence in the two Indian states.
On Aug. 17, 2005, JMB set off almost 600 bombs that killed 28 people and injured dozens in 63 of 64 districts across Bangladesh, police said.
The JMB was conspiring to overthrow the democratic government in Bangladesh through violent means, NIA said in its 164-page charge sheet, adding that it was for this purpose the group was using the Burdwan hideout to make explosives.
“They [JMB] hatched a conspiracy wherein the main purpose was to establish Sharia Law in Bangladesh by toppling [the] democratically elected government and to spread tentacles in India for the furtherance of their goal,” the agency said.
Burhan Sheikh was believed to be responsible for procuring material used in making improvised explosives, a NIA official told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.
“During an initial round of interrogation, Sheikh admitted he was a member of JMB and they wanted to build a terror network in Assam and West Bengal with an aim to overthrow the Bangladesh government and build an Islamic state,” the official said.
Tirtha Banerjee, a former senior official of India’s Intelligence Bureau, told BenarNews the arrest was a major breakthrough in the case.
“But investigators should strive harder to arrest the remaining JMB members, who are still hiding in India, as they can strike at any time,” Banerjee said.
Jhumur Deb in Guwahati, India, contributed to this report.