Indian police on Monday claimed to have busted a cell of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) with the arrests of six suspected members of the terror outfit, including three Bangladeshi nationals, from the northeastern Indian states of West Bengal and Assam over the weekend.
Five of the accused were wanted by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an accidental blast inside a house that killed two suspected terrorists in West Bengal’s Burdwan district in October 2014, Joint Commissioner of Police Vishal Garg told reporters in Kolkata, the state’s capital.
The 2014 blast occurred when alleged JMB members using the house as a hideout were building explosives for attacks in Bangladesh aimed at toppling the government of that country, according to the NIA. Bangladesh shares a large part of its 4,096-km (2,545-mile) border with India in West Bengal and Assam.
“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 NIA said in a release, referring to its investigations into the 2014 blast.
“These people left West Bengal after [the] Burdwan blast. They had left the state and moved to south India and [other] northeastern states, where they were planning subversive activities. We are still trying to find out the details,” Garg said.
A court in Kolkata on Monday ordered all six – Anwar Hussain Farooq, Abdul Kalam, Mohammad Rubel (from Bangladesh), Yusuf Khetab (West Bengal), Jahidul Sheikh and Shahidul Shamim (Assam) – to police custody until Oct. 6.
Garg identified Farooq, a native of Bangladesh’s Jamalpur district, as the head of JMB’s West Bengal unit and Khetab as his deputy, and indicated that JMB sleeper cells were active in India.
He said Sheikh was arrested on Saturday, leading to the arrests of the others.
“Two days ago, [Sheikh] was arrested by the Kolkata Special Task Force [STF] in a fake currency note racket in Cachar district of Assam. After interrogation it came to light that he was a JMB operative,” Garg said.
Information from the interrogation led STF officers to Kalam, who was apprehended from the Coochbehar railway station in West Bengal, Garg said, adding that he had crossed over into India through Assam.
Farooq, Rubel, Shamim and Khetab were captured in the North 24 Parganas district close the Bangladesh border on Sunday, Garg said.
“About 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) [of] explosives, including white explosive powder, which have been sent for testing, several mobile phones, a letter written in Bengali, bearing balls, wire cutters and batteries have been recovered,” Garg said.
Police also recovered a chart listing the JMB hierarchy from Farooq, he said.
Rubel, who is expert at making homemade explosives, also facilitated entry of JMB operatives from Bangladesh into India, Garg said.
“They were using one web-based networking system to communicate with each other and never used mobile phones to interact. They weren’t even communicating on Facebook or its messenger. We have broken the encrypted messages they exchanged,” Garg said.
Garg said interrogations of the suspects revealed an all-women cell of the JMB active in West Bengal, adding that the group was code-named “Red Rose.”
Prasanta Bandoypadhyay, Kolkata’s former police chief, said that although the arrests were a major breakthrough in exposing JMB’s activities in India, security agencies must not get complacent as it might be the tip of the iceberg.
“The fact that all the absconders of the Burdwan blasts were planning another strike should ring alarm bells. On top of that, we now have information that there is a women’s cell of the JMB active in India. It is alarming,” Bandoypadhyay told BenarNews.