In the face of crackdown by law enforcement agencies, listed militant kingpins and their associates have left major cities and taken shelter in country’s northern region, detective sources said.
Different areas of northern districts have become safe haven for activists of banned militant outfits.Most of the runaway activists belong to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJi) and Ansarullah Bangla Team.
They are living in rented houses in remote areas of Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Bogra and Rangpur using fake identities, the sources said.
The militants are running their activities from these hideouts, a detective official said.
Many of them have been arrested with arms and ammunition from these remote areas.
On Friday, members of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) arrested five suspected JMB men along with arms and ammunition from Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts.
A team of the elite police unit conducted drives in Godagari upazila of Rajshahi and Kodalkati Maddhya Char in Sadar upazila of Chapainawabganj and detained the ‘five JMB men’ with arms, bullets and bomb-making materials, said Rab.On Monday, Rab men in another drive arrested four suspected members of JMB from Dakhshin Sahar area in Sadar upazila of Chapainawabganj.
The arrestees are Abdul Kader, 30, Aminul Islam, 30, Abdur Rahman, 39, and Aktarul Islam, 46, hailing from Shibganj upazila.
The Rab team also seized a pistol, five rounds of bullet, a magazine, 400 grams of gunpowder and bomb-making materials, according to Rab.
During primary interrogation, the detainees confessed to their involvement with militant activities, said a release of the force.
On June 30, detectives detained two JMB members from Adamdighi upazila of Bogra
The detainees Rubel Hossain, 27, of Chhoto Chok village in Shibganj upazila of Chapainawabganj, and Abdul Bari of Paarchoka village of the same upazila are the members of JMB’s military wing, police said.
The striking team also recovered two foreign pistols, 4 magazines and 12 bullets from their possession.
On May 13, a Sirajganj court sentenced four female operatives of JMB to five-year imprisonment on charge of carrying explosives.
The convicts are Tabassum Rani, 32, of Solonga upazila in the district, Habiba Akter Mishu, 20, and Rumana Akter Ruma, 23, of Sajahanpur upazila in Bogra while Rumana Begum, 21, of Gabindaganj upazila in Gaibandha district.
On September 23, 2016, detectives arrested them from a house of Masumpur Uttarpara village in Sirajganj and recovered six cocktails, four grenades and a number of Jihadi books from their possessions.
On February 25, 2018, the Rab men arrested three suspected JMB members in Puthia upazila of Rajshahi.
The arrestees were Shariful Islam alias Sharif, 45, Jakaria Hossain Jakkar, 43, and Ataur Rahman alias Ahsan Hazi, 35.
Tipped off, a team of the elite force conducted a drive at Jamira village and arrested them along with four bombs, eight bullets, two pistols, one IED and some bomb-making materials.
Earlier, a number of militant dens were busted by law enforcement agencies in different remote areas of the northern districts, including Rajshahi, Rangpur and Chapainawabganj.
The Rab officials in Rajshahi said vigilance is being stepped up in remote and inaccessible regions to find out if terrorists were mingling with locals.
Civil society members said public relations and interactions should be strengthened in these areas, besides security surveillance.
A satellite image derived from Google shows how a remote and isolated cowshed in Char Alatuli village had been chosen as their shelter by militants.
They had convinced Rashikul, the owner of the cowshed, that they were ornithologists and wanted to do a survey of migratory birds of the char area and take photographs.
To win the confidence of Rashikul and neighbours, the militants in disguise visited some distant char areas on the Padma with cameras and shot some photographs of birds.
But under the guise of photographers, they used the cowshed for planning sabotage and terrorist activities in the district.
Other militant dens busted by law enforcement agencies in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts were also situated in remote villages and char areas.
Rab director (media wing) Mufti Mahmud Khan said the JMB militants are now hiding with false identities in remote rural areas by convincing local people that they needed to stay in those places for professional or business purposes.
“The members of Rab and other law enforcement agencies have already started operations to detect and nab these militants,” he added.
In a recent clash between militants and law enforcement members in Maschmara-Habashpur village under Matikata union of Godagari on May 11, it was found that the militants used to live in an isolated house owned by Sajjad Hossain, a hawker, by identifying themselves as garments sellers.
In an earlier operation conducted on June 12 at an isolated house in Dangapara village of Pachandar union of Tanore upazila, it was found that the militants convinced the owner of the house, saying that they offered homeopathic treatment to people.
Members of law enforcement agencies recovered suicide vests and explosives from the possession of those militants.
On April 26 last year, they raided a house inside a mango orchard in Trimohini, a village near the Sona Masjid frontier under Mobarakpur union of Chapainawabganj district, where all four militants blew themselves up with bombs.
Those militants were staying there by identifying themselves as spice traders.
Three students of Rangpur Begum Rokeya University remained missing in the last three years—one of them is a death row convict in the murder case of Japanese national Hoshi Kunio.
A few days ago, police arrested a student named Sadia Afroz Meena on charges of militant links.