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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Jamaat ul Mujahideen in Bengal – A decade of activities

Jamaat ul Mujahideen started activities in West Bengal in 2008, when two of its senior leaders, Talha Sheikh and Sohail Mahfuz crossed over to West Bengal to evade arrest and persecution in Bangladesh.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2019 06:51 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
JMB started activities in West Bengal in 2008.
JMB started activities in West Bengal in 2008.(HT File Photo)
         

A special Kolkata court’s 10-years sentence to four Bangladeshi nationals, Sheikh Rahmatullah, Tarikul Islam, Mohammed Rubel and Habibur Rehman in connection with the 2014 Burdwan blast case marks about 10-years of banned terror outfit Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)’s operation in India.

JMB started activities in West Bengal in 2008, when two of its senior leaders, Talha Sheikh and Sohail Mahfuz crossed over to West Bengal to evade arrest and persecution in Bangladesh. Both were accused in the serial blast in Bangladesh that JMB carried out in 2005, the very year the outfit was founded.

The two, making a base in West Bengal, started working quietly on recruitment and training. This duo created several modules and ‘sleeper cells’ in the districts of Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia and Burdwan over the coming years.

However, their activities picked up momentum after Salahuddin Salehin and Jahidul Islam – two convicts lodged in Bangladesh’s jail, were ‘freed’ during a daring attack on a prison van carrying the duo to a court in February 2014.

Salehin, who was awarded death sentence by a lower court, entered West Bengal along with Jahidul Islam and Anwar Hosen Jamai Farooq, the person who allegedly led the attack on the prison van at Trishal in Bangladesh.

“Salehin, Jahidur Islam and Jamai Farooq teamed up with Talha Sheikh and Sohail Mahfuz. All five of them had gone out of the radar of the Bangladesh police and were suspected to be in India, even though the security agencies in India were clueless about their possible whereabouts. However, the accidental blast at Khagragarh opened the lid on the network and later one name after another cropped up during interrogation,” said an official working with a central agency.

In West Bengal, Salehin had assumed the name of Mahin and Sunny, while Jahidul Islam alias Mizan was known as Kausar. Talha Sheikh had taken the alias of Shyamal Sheikh and Sohel Mahfuz was known by the alias of Hatkata Nasirullah.

Following intense police action after the Khagragarh blast, Talha Sheikh and Sohel Mahfuz went back to Bangladesh and were arrested there in 2017.

The JMB at that time had split into pro-Al Qaeda and pro-Islamic State (IS) factions.

Talha Sheikh and Sohel Mahfuz emerged as prominent leaders of the pro-IS faction and later got arrested in Bangladesh, Mahfuz in September 2017 and Sheikh in December the same year.

Meanwhile, in 2016, the pro-Al Qaeda faction announced Salehin as its ameer or chief.

In West Bengal, Salehin focussed on reviving and expanding JMB network in association with Kausar and Farooq.

By early 2018, they had floated JMB’s India chapter, named as Jamaat ul Mujahideen Hind. Salehin was treated as the ameer of Jamaat ul Mujahideen in both India and Bangladesh.

Farooq was arrested from Kolkata in September 2016 and Kausar was nabbed in West Bengal in August 2018. Another crucial functionary, Habibur Rehman Sheikh alias Habibur Sheikh alias Habibur Kabor Sheikh, who took charge of coordination in India after Kausar’s arrest, was nabbed from Bengaluru in June this year.

Ejaz Ahmed’s arrest from Bihar earlier this month dealt another blow to Salehin’s networks, as Ahmed had stepped into Rehman’s shoes.

The National Investigation Agency is probing the JMB networks in India on the basis of case no RC-03/2014/NIA/DLI, filed in at the NIA court in New Delhi and Salehin is their key target.

Most of the others wanted in connection with JMB’s India networks are Indian nationals and West Bengal, residents.

First Published: Aug 30, 2019 23:17 IST