Bangladeshi police on Wednesday announced the arrests of five members of the banned militant group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), claiming they were planning to carry out New Year’s Eve attacks in Dhaka.
The suspects also planned robberies to raise funds to build up their network, according to Monirul Islam, chief of the counter terrorism unit of the Bangladeshi police.
“They planned to attack on New Year’s Eve,” he said.
He said the five were members of “old JMB,” a branch of the group that is allied with al-Qaeda, as opposed to Neo-JMB, which embraces ideology of the so-called Islamic State.
“We have recovered 30 kilograms of different explosive materials (liquid and powder), bomb-making materials and extremist books from their possession,” Islam told reporters following a press conference on Wednesday.
“They came to Dhaka with those explosives. Some of the explosive materials were very powerful. Their motive was to commit robberies in different places by exploding bombs and cocktails,” Islam said, pointing out that the “old” branch of JMB has been trying to regroup.
“So, they need more arms, explosives, funds and workers. That is why they planned different attacks,” he said.
‘Recruitment involves money’
A Wednesday press statement from the Dhaka Metropolitan Police said the counter terrorism unit arrested the five JMB members from Dhaka’s Darus Salam neighborhood on Tuesday night.
They were identified as Md Reaz alias Engineer alias Rakib; Md Abu Bin Sayem alias Bappi alias Opu; Kazi Abdullah Al Osman alias Ahsan; Md Shohag alias Chairman; and Md Mamun alias Heemel.
“During the primary interrogation, they confessed that they were active members of the old JMB. They procured explosives according to the instruction of Zia, Haider and Shahidullah,” said the statement, identifying the three as fugitives in charge of JMB’s Rajshahi region, in northwestern Bangladesh.
JMB was born in Bagmara, Rajshahi, and made its existence known by staging bombings in 63 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts within a half-hour period on Aug. 17, 2005.
The network fell apart after the 2007 executions of its top leaders including founder Shaikh Abdur Rahman and military wing chief Siddiqul Islam.
It began regrouping in 2009 but has split into factions since then, including Neo-JMB, reportedly led by Tamim Chowdhury, the Bangladesh-born Canadian mastermind of the IS-claimed terrorist attack on a Dhaka café in July 2016 that left 29 dead. Chowdhury was killed in a firefight with police in late August.
Retired Brig. Gen. Sakhawat Hossain, who wrote several books on terrorism, told BenarNews that the JMB – be it old or Neo – has turned to robbery to raise money because the government has cracked down on money laundering schemes.
“The IS looted banks in Mosul to collect funds and here the JMB and the Ansar al Islam have looted banks in Ashulia to collect funds. They think the bank robbery and plundering wealth from the ‘apostates or infidels’ is justified for a ‘greater cause,’” he said.
“Recruitment involves money. They must provide funds to militants to carry out terrorist activities. They even provide money to the family members if a militant is killed,” he said.