Bangladesh: 4 JMB Members Sentenced for 2005 Bomb Attacks

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.03.10
Dhaka
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160310-BD-jmb-sentence-620.jpg Bangladeshi police display explosives recovered in Dhaka less than a month after Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh members set off more than 600 explosives across the country, Sept. 9, 2005.
AFP

A Dhaka court on Thursday sentenced four members of a banned radical outfit to life in prison for carrying out one of 600 bomb blasts that rocked the nation more than a decade ago.

But the court acquitted Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) military wing chief Salauddin (alias Salehin) and seven other JMB activists because the prosecution failed to present enough evidence against them, Dhaka special public prosecutor Syed Shamsul Haque Badal told BenarNews.

The four who were convicted and sentenced Thursday were JMB activists Kawser Ali Sumon, Yunus Ali Mia (alias Kawser), Mehdi Habib (alias Rafiq), and Asharful Islam (alias Sharif). Two of these men, Yunus Ali Mia and Asharful Islam, were sentenced in absentia and remain at-large, Badal said.

The Bangladeshi authorities have been cracking down on the JMB, which has been resurgent in recent years and which police blame for a series of attacks on foreigners and members of religious minorities since September 2015.

The JMB burst onto the national scene 11 years ago, when its operatives set off 600 bombs and other explosives in 63 of Bangladesh’s 64 districts.

Only two people died in the blasts, which all took place on a single day – Aug. 17, 2005 – but the coordinated attacks forced the government to admit the presence of militants in Bangladesh.

Up to that point, the government of then-Prime Minister Khaleda Zia blamed media for publishing “cooked and fabricated” stories about militant activities in Bangladesh. The government went on to ban the JMB and other militant groups that sought to replace democratic and secular government with a system based on Sharia law.

On Thursday, Dhaka Speedy Trial Tribunal Judge Momtaz Begum sentenced the four defendants for a bombing that rocked Mymensingh town, on charges brought under the nation’s Explosives Act. Because of the sheer number of blasts, police throughout the country have filed cases that are still working their way through the justice system 11 years on.

Masterminds executed

Police identified Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam (alias Bangla Bhai) as the masterminds of those attacks back in August 2005. Both men were arrested in 2006 and executed in 2007.

After years of dormancy following the loss of its leaders, the JMB in recent years started regrouping in different parts of the country.

In late February, police arrested three suspected JMB members in connection with the murder of a Hindu priest in the northern district of Panchagarh on Feb. 21. Two days after those arrests, police on Feb. 28 raided a suspected JMB den in Dhaka, where they uncovered explosives and bomb-making materials, according to reports.

In addition to being suspected of attacking foreigners and religious minorities, the JMB has been tied to an accidental explosion in Burdwan, a town in the neighboring Indian state of West Bengal, in October 2014.

A transnational JMB network was exposed then, when a bomb exploded in a rented house in Burdwan, killing two suspected Indian Mujahideen members. A year ago, Indian and Bangladeshi investigators reported finding a JMB link to the blast.

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