National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval told the West Bengal chief minister on Monday that the border district of Jalpaiguri had emerged as a new terror hub in the state, sources said, suggesting the terror network extends beyond the southeastern town of Burdwan and neighbouring areas.
Sources said Doval handed a list of 180 Bangladeshi militants hiding in West Bengal to the government after visiting the site of the October 2 blast in Burdwan.
The NSA and other members of a delegation of top security and intelligence chiefs told chief minister Mamata Banerjee about how operatives of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had used the state as a safe haven over the past two years.
“Besides pointing out that Jalpaiguri has turned into yet another terror point for JMB, the central representatives also handed over a list of unrecognised madrasas in the state operating as terror-breeding hubs,” said a state government source on condition of anonymity. “The central team also informed the chief minister on how during the last couple years the number of terror modules in West Bengal has gone beyond 50.”
The Mamata Banerjee government said it would cooperate with a central investigation into the Burdwan blast, in which two JMB operatives were killed while making bombs in a house. The chief minister initially resisted a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the incident that exposed a terror network of Bangladeshi infiltrators spread over several West Bengal districts.
“The chief minister and the West Bengal government have assured that the Centre and the state will work together in unearthing the entire case,” Prakash Mishra, special secretary for internal security in the Union home ministry, told the media after the meeting with Banerjee.
The NSA and his team also referred to the alleged links of a Rajya Sabha member from West Bengal with two Bangladeshi militant groups – JMB and Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB).
An NIA report says that the JMB, a shadowy organisation formed in 2005, has plans to establish an Islamic state encompassing Bangladesh and Murshidabad, Nadia and Malda districts of West Bengal.
Three people, including two women, were arrested in the Burdwan case and questioned by the NIA that took over the probe after the state government faced a barrage of criticism for allegedly mishandling the investigation.
Opposition parties have accused Banerjee of allowing extremist elements to flourish in the state for vote-bank politics.
“It is clear that Trinamool Congress is allowing jihadi elements in Bengal. Mere assurances will not drive them out,” said state BJP president Rahul Sinha.
Apart from SIM cards, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), detonators and watch dials, some leaflets and papers with names of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Chechen rebels were reportedly recovered from the Burdwan house, which the suspected militants had rented a few months ago.
The central delegation’s visit comes as the Union government prepares to send a report on the issue to Bangladesh following a request from the Sheikh Hasina government.
(With inputs from Ravik Bhattacharya)