Armed robberies in running buses on the Dhaka-Rangpur highway and jewellery shops in Savar on the outskirts of the capital have triggered panic among people.
It has been most worrying that members of different banned militant outfits including Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) are reportedly getting involved in such daring robberies, detectives said.
The arrestees had planned to commit robbery at a bank in Mymensingh city to raise funds, RAB Director (Legal and Media Wing) Commander Khandaker Al Moin told a news conference at the RAB-14 headquarters in the city on Saturday.
He said, “Based on intelligence information, we had learned that this militant group had a plan to rob several organisations. As part of this, the militants came to Mymensingh to commit robbery in a bank. But in the face of the RAB move, their attempt has been foiled.”
The RAB official added, “On August 31, the militants gathered for a secret meeting at a hideout in Madarganj of Jamalpur.
In the afternoon of September 1, they started their journey from Jamtala Char area of Jamalpur by a motorised boat across the Brahmaputra River.
They travelled to different chars to maintain confidentiality. Then at midnight, they reached Khagdahar area of Mymensingh.
During initial questioning, the suspects said they belong to banned militant outfit JMB.
“Ehsar operatives of the JMB are actively involved in various terror attacks and in robberies at financial institutions to gather funds for the organisation,” Al Moin said.
The suspects said a group of 10-15 activists would gather information about several financial institutions, NGOs and gold shops in Mymensingh, the RAB claimed.
In a daring heist, armed men robbed as many as 19 jewellery stores at Nayarhat of Ashulia in Savar in the early hours of Monday.
Quoting witnesses, sub-inspector Harun-ur-Rashid of Ashulia Police Station said the owners went home after closing their shops on Sunday night. A few of their employees regularly stay back and sleep inside the stores as a safety measure.
“In the early hours of Monday, a group of robbers invaded the Nayarhat area after coming through the Bangshi River by a boat and stormed the jewellery stores,” he said.
The robbers took the security guards of the market hostage at gunpoint and forced the employees to open the shutters issuing a threat, the police officer said. Later, the robbers tied everyone up with ropes and looted gold ornaments and cash before fleeing using the same boat that they arrived in, he said.
According to the shop owners, gold ornaments and cash worth Tk several crore were looted by the robbers.
Shahidul Islam, additional superintendent of police of Savar circle, said: “Police have already visited the scene. Necessary steps will be taken upon further investigation.”
Last week, a group of men have carried out an outrageous armed robbery on three Dhaka-bound buses as well as some trucks, motorcycles and rickshaw-vans on the Rajshahi-Chapainawabganj highway. They looted cash, gold ornaments and other valuables from the passengers.
Five people were also injured during the incident for initially refusing to hand over their valuables.
Meanwhile, six people have been arrested over the robbery and murder of the driver of Dhaka-bound ‘Hanif Paribahan’ bus on Dhaka-Rangpur highway, Al Moin said.
Driver Manjur Hossain made a desperate attempt to save his passengers from the robbers, he said. “The robbers hacked him in the shoulder.”
RAB said they arrested six suspects believed to be directly involved in the robbery in drives conducted Ashulia of Dhaka and Gaibandha on September 4.
The detainees are Nayan Chandra Roy, 22, Riazul Islam Lalu, 22, Omar Farukh, 19, Firoz Kabir, 20, Abu Sayeed Molla, 25, and Shakil Miah, 26.
They also seized five sharp weapons, including the one used in the murder and mobile phones, the law enforcers said.
RAB said the gang had carried out seven robberies on the 48-km road between Gaibandha’s Palashbari and Rangpur’s Pirganj in the past month.
Meanwhile, RAB members have detained six suspected robbers while preparing for a robbery in Tongi in Gazipur, according to a press release issued by RAB-1 on Monday.
It said RAB members raided the Tongi Station Road area on Sunday evening on the basis of secret information that a group was preparing for robbery and made the arrest.
The arrestees are Zahirul Islam, 40, Shafiqul Islam alias Intake, 34, Md Hasib, 22, Md Rubel Hossain, 30, Md Nazmul Mia, 23, and Md Ashraful Islam, 32.
A sword, a machete, a knife and eight mobile phones were recovered from the detainees.
A case was filed against them with Tongi East Police Station.