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Militants trying new tactics to avoid surveillance, security forces on tenterhooks

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Kolkata, July 25, 2021 – The arrest of three Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorists from Haridevpur in South Kolkata followed by several arrests and their subsequent interrogation has led the police to believe that the militants coming from or through Bangladesh are not following the traditional patterns of operation. They are adopting new methods and mechanisms which are helping them to avoid security surveillance and expand their organisation.

West Bengal, which shares 2,217 km of the total 4096 km border with Bangladesh, has always been a soft target for the Bangladeshi terrorists. But now, sleuths of the Kolkata Special Task Force (STF) investigating the terror modules operating in the state have reasons to believe that not only from Bangladesh but extremist groups from Pakistan and agents from China are also making their way to India through this route.

“The recent arrest of a Chinese spy Junwei Han (36 years) in border area Malda district and the arrests of nine Al Qaeda terrorists from different districts of the state by the National Investigation Agency are enough to understand that the neighbouring countries are targeting the huge porous border of the state to enter India,” a senior officer of the Kolkata STF said.

According to the data released by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, the security forces arrested 577 people who tried to enter the country through different states along the Bangladesh border.

Of these 577 people, 492 tried to enter Tndia through West Bengal which according to the police is highly alarming.

“As both the Nepal and Kashmir route have become vulnerable the terrorists are trying to infiltrate into the country through the West Bengal border. Of the 2,217 km border, 60 per cent is riverine, and it is difficult for the border security forces to keep an eye on that. The infiltrators are using it as an easy route,” the officer said.

The sleuths probing the JMB case are now saying that instead of increasing the members of their sleeper cells, the outfits are focusing more on selective, highly motivated and trained persons. Training in handling explosives seems to be the latest goal of these outfits.

Previously, getting more and more recruits for the sleeper cells was the area of focus for the JMB in West Bengal. But that is no more the case. Rather the focus now is to pick highly motivated and trained persons from the recruits and train them in sophisticated explosives making. And this training is intended mainly through the virtual platform.

The three suspected JMB activists, who were arrested from the southern outskirts of Kolkata recently, got similar explosives manufacturing training from their leaders.

The trio has admitted that they were in regular touch with the top JMB leaders who are based out of Bangladesh and operating from there. The investigating sleuths have secured the names and mobile numbers of several top JMB leaders from the trio — Naziur Rahman Pavel, Mikail Khan and Rabiul Islam.

“During interrogation, Pavel said he rarely left the room rented in Haridevpur. Mikail used to spread JMB’s propaganda messages on social media while Rabiul, the youngest in the group, used to communicate with their leaders using a VPN (virtual private network),” said an STF officer.

“Interrogation of the suspects also revealed that they operated as a well organised cell. The JMB refers to these cells as markaz, which, in Arabic, means centre. The investigation has revealed that a terrorist Ali had sent money to India through hawala operators apparently keeping other JMB leaders in the dark.

“This money was invested in several businesses that have Indian partners. Ali also runs a human trafficking racket that has sent Bangladeshi men to several European countries,” the STF officer said on the condition of anonymity.

“The main job of this markaz was to raise funds and recruit people. Ever since the JMB got divided into two groups in Bangladesh, the faction headed by Al Amin is facing a cash crunch. To instil fear and respect among sympathisers of fundamentalist activities, Al Amin told people that he works for Al Qaeda. Sometimes he also used the name of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami or Huji. His associate Ansar Ali took to robbery and carried out around a dozen operations,” the officer added.

“To avoid detection, Pavel used the Hindu name Jayram Bepari. He and Khan alias Sheikh Sabbir befriended two Hindu women in the Haridevpur area and had plans to get married next month. This would have helped them recruit more people without arousing suspicion. We have kept the identity of these women secret to protect their families,” said another STF officer who did not want to be named.

The STF is looking for another operative, Salim Munshi and one John David alias Sabbir. Munshi is the person who allegedly ferried cash and fake identity cards from one unit to another. The investigators have learnt that Munshi is not a JMB member but works for the outfit for money. But who is David? The Bangladesh counter-terrorism unit has informed that this John David is an explosives expert specialising in making sophisticated explosives. He is also a militia commander of JMB in the Maimansingha district of Bangladesh.  (Agency)

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