Bengal, Particularly its southern part and Kolkata, has emerged as an important hub and transit point for militant activities. The recent arrest of Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI) commander Babu Bhai has brought this fact to the fore.
After Babu was arrested in Lucknow, intelligence sleuths have learnt from him that the terrorist had a key role in almost every blast that took place in northern India over the last four years.
On instructions from Huji’s Karachi-based India chief Amir Reza Khan and the outfit’s Bangladesh-based commander Kamar alias Nata, Babu and his cohorts had supplied RDX, detonators, switches and other lethal weapons like AK-47 to jehadis of all hues to carry out terror acts in the country.
Babu has already admitted that his aides had handed over 40 kg of RDX to one Raju prior to the Varanasi blast. Months before the serial explosions on Mumbai local trains, his men had handed over 30 kg of RDX to one Ravi in two instalments.
But it all began 10 years back when a Park Circus business with underworld links Asif Reza Khan had got in touch with Bangladesh-based Huji leaders and went to Pakistan for training.
On return from Pakistan, Asif’s primary task was to spread the Huji network in Bengal as well as other parts of the country.
Asif’s Bangladesh visit had taken him to a training camp in Satkhira. The Satkhira terrorist camp inspired Asif so much that he planned to set up a similar facility in the remote Sunderbans islands. A camp in Bengal had become necessary as sending recruits to Pakistan for training was a time-consuming and risky affair.
Asif needed a man from the Sunderbans area to implement his idea. Jalaluddin Mollah alias Babu Bhai of Joynagar in South 24 Parganas was just the right person for the job. The lure of the money worked and soon Babu was off to Baluchistan to get trained. On his return he was told to buy a house in Namkhana to set up a transit centre for Huji activists. The house was also to be used as a base from where Babu, along with one Sahajahan alias Mijanur Rehman, would try to spot a remote island in Sunderbans that would be safe for training militants.
Near the Malta river in Namkhana they purchased a mud house for Rs 35,000. A boat and fishing nets were also bought so that the two could project themselves as fishermen. The fishermen identity was planned to make it easier for the duo to intensively tour the area and locate the right spot for the training camp. They had even begun building a mechanised boat for faster transportation of fresh recruits.
But the kidnapping of Khadim boss Partha Prathim Roy Burman forced them to change their plans. Asif asked Babu to provide shelter to the abductors at Namkhana and also at Haroa in North 24 Parganas.
Then came the turning point for Babu. The Gujarat police shot Asif dead in an encounter. Babu and Asif’s brother Amir had to take charge of the organisation. Later, when Amir left the country for Pakistan after the attack on the American Centre by his team, which had been named the Asif Reza Khan Commando Force, the mantle of the Huji area commander fell on Babu.
For the last few years, Babu gradually expanded the organisation and intelligence agencies believe that he had more than 25 people directly working under him.
Though close aides of Babu like Moulana Mehboob Mondal, Akbar and Mukhtar have been arrested, his other cohorts like Noor Islam, Sajjad and Toufique are still at large. The police have also failed to nab trans-border operatives like Jalil of Biramnagar and Ratan Dala of Petrapol. They have often helped Babu Bhai to smuggle in new recruits and explosives safely.
The police, with tip-offs from Babu, are now on the hunt for seven to eight of his associates who are active in Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi and Mumbai.
Rajiv Kumar, DIG CID (operation), told Hindustan Times: “We are on the look out for three more Huji activists.”
The big catch for the CID would be Toufique, who is believed to be the second in command of the Huji in Bengal. Toufique, who is from Padmapukur in Guma, North 24 Parganas, studied BCom at the Sri Chaitanya College, Habra. He has been a major player in making new recruits for the Huji.
The police are also searching for the revolver Asif had used during the abduction of the Khadim boss. Asif had handed it over to Babu before he had left Bengal in 2001.