Bangladesh authorities said they arrested at least 10 people suspected of links to Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) since Sunday, including a garment manufacturer accused of providing funds to the extremist group and other militants.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers arrested Imran Ahmed, 37, early Sunday over his alleged funding of the Islamic militant group. Ahmed is managing director and owner of Jim Tex Linkage Industries Limited, an exporter of sweaters and other knit products to the European Union, Australia, Canada and the United States.
RAB officials said Ahmed told them that he gave 400,000 taka (U.S. $4,960) to a militant who, they believe, joined IS in Syria in 2015 and 200,000 taka ($2,460) to the wife of a JMB leader who was arrested in November 2016.
The arrests of Ahmed and the other suspects cast doubts on reports that JMB and its Islamic State- (IS)-linked offshoot, Neo-JMB, are losing support, police officials said. Government officials have blamed Neo-JMB for a terrorist siege at a café in Dhaka in July 2016 that left 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, dead.
“We are not yet sure whether Imran knew anyone of those café attackers,” RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told a press briefing on Sunday, referring to five gunmen who were killed as Bangladeshi security forces stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery to break the siege on the morning of July 2.
On Monday, the police counter terrorism and transnational crime unit (CTTC) arrested six suspected Neo-JMB members in the New Market area of Dhaka, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman. The arrests disrupted their alleged plan to kill progressive Islamic scholars.
Those arrested were identified as Zahidul Islam, Abu Bakr Siddique, Mohammadullah Adnan, Mehedi Hasan Emon, Shamsuddin al Amin and Khalid Saifullah.
Meanwhile, police arrested three suspected militants from Dangapara village in the Rajshahi district on Monday following a Sunday morning raid of their house. The suspects are identified as Israfil Alam, his brother, Ibrahim, and brother-in-law Robiul Islam.
Family members including women and children were taken to the local police station for interrogation.
Rajshahi police superintendent Moazzem Hossain Bhuiyan said a bomb disposal unit was called to the scene after the suspects allegedly told officers they had suicide vests and ammunition inside the house.
Regarding the arrest of Ahmed, officials said he told interrogators about ongoing efforts to merge JMB and its offshoot into one organization.
“We are getting information that regardless of a series of operations (by law enforcement agencies) JMB’s activities haven’t been stopped. They are now mainly emphasizing and focusing on recruiting new members,” Khan said.
Khan told reporters that a JMB organizing meeting held in Bogra district in April resulted in the formation of a 10-member executive committee. Someone named “Abu Muharib,” who is leading JMB, approved the executive committee.
“We cannot confirm the identity of Abu Muharib, including his nationality,” RAB officer Alep Uddin told reporters.