The recent arrests of four Pakistanis in Dhaka has exposed efforts by the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) to develop links with extremist groups in Pakistan, a Bangladeshi security expert told BenarNews.
On Friday, Bangladesh police raided a house in Dhaka’s Uttara residential area, arresting seven suspected JMB members, including the Pakistanis.
The arrests marked the first time that Pakistani suspects were publically linked with JMB. The militant group burst on the national scene 10 years ago, when it was blamed for carrying out bombings in 63 of Bangladesh’s 63 districts. A ban on the group, which followed Bangladesh’s execution of some of JMB’s top leaders in 2007, drove many of its followers underground. But Bangladeshi authorities in recent months have stepped up raids targeting suspected members.
“The JMB is a notorious outfit. It carried out serial bomb blasts in 63 out of 64 districts of Bangladesh. The execution of their political gurus and the government’s ban forced them to go into hiding and develop greater networks,” Brig. Gen. Shahedul Anam, who often writes about militancy and security issues in the country, told BenarNews.
Before 2009, the Pakistani intelligence services were present in Bangladesh and provided support to militant groups that were waging insurgencies in India’s northeastern states, Anam said. Between 1947 and 1971, Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan and was part of Pakistan.
“Due to the government’s tough action, the anti-Indian separatists were flushed out. It makes it impossible for Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to operate from Bangladesh. So, now they have been using the JMB as their platform against India. Similarly, the JMB is also getting benefits,” Anam added.
The arrest of the Pakistanis with the Bangladeshis, he said, clearly showed the JMB’s efforts to develop regional links among like-minded groups.
Those arrested last week include Md Idris Ali, Md Shakil, Md Khalilur Rahman and Md Iqbal, according to Dhaka Metropolitan Police. Bangladeshi nationals Md Babul Khan, Md Forman and Md Shahid were also arrested.
More JMB suspects nabbed
Statements from those seven suspects led to the arrests on Monday of another 11 alleged JMB members, said Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s detective branch.
A transnational JMB network was exposed in October 2014, when a bomb exploded by accident in a rented house in Burdwan, a district in India’s West Bengal state, killing two suspected Indian Mujahideen members.
In March, Indian and Bangladeshi investigators reported finding a JMB link to the blast.
On Thursday, police arrested a fourth suspect in the Burdwan blast. Jahangir Hussain, 32, was captured in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura, Z News reported.
Police in Bangladesh, however, are playing down any possible connections between JMB and other South Asian militant groups.
“The arrest of the Pakistanis with the JMB cadres does not mean that the JMB has developed regional connections,” Islam, a deputy commissioner and spokesman for the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.
“The Pakistanis joined hands with the JMB men for pushing fake currencies into India and Bangladesh. Thus, the JMB is getting funds for their activities as they can no more mobilize foreign funds [because of] the government’s tough stance on terrorism financing,” he said.