Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)
While the exact origin is shrouded in mystery, its existence came to notice on May 20, 2002 with the arrest of eight Islamist militants at Parbatipur in the Dinajpur district along with 25 petrol bombs and documents detailing the outfit's activities. Subsequently, on February 13, 2003, the JMB is reported to have carried out seven bomb explosions in the Chhoto Gurgola area of Dinajpur town in which three persons were wounded.
Some reports suggest that it is the youth front of the Al Mujahideen, an organisation allegedly formed in the mid-1990s but whose existence is still ambiguous, whereas others indicate that the JMB is another name for the vigilante Islamist group the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB).
The JMB was proscribed by the Government on February 23, 2005.
Objectives and Ideology
The Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Party of the Mujahideen) aims at establishing the rule of Islam in Bangladesh through an armed struggle. The outfit is opposed to the establishment of democracy and calls for the conduct of government under Islamic law.
On August 17, 2005, while claiming responsibility for the serial blasts through leaflets, in Bangla and Arabic, left at the site of the explosions across the country, the JMB said: "We're the soldiers of Allah. We've taken up arms for the implementation of Allah's law the way Prophet, Sahabis and heroic Mujahideen have done for centuries… It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made law."
The JMB said the blasts were its "third call" to establish Islamic rule in Bangladesh. "If ignored and [if] our people are arrested or persecuted, Jama'atul Mujahideen will take the counter-action," the leaflets said. They also warned the United States and Britain against occupation of Muslim lands: "It is also to warn Bush and Blair to vacate Muslim countries, or to face Muslim upsurge."
Espousing a radical variant of Islam, the outfit is opposed to cultural functions, cinema halls, shrines and NGOs.
One of the objectives of JMB is to free Muslims of the influence of 'anti-Islam forces' and practices that brought women out of their houses.
Leadership and Growth
Maulana Saidur Rahman is known to be currently heading the JMB after the March 30, 2007 execution of the top six militant leaders of the outfit. On November 16, 2008 security forces came close to arresting Saidur Rahman who used to live in a rented house in the Mirpur locality of national capital Dhaka. Although the raid resulted in the arrest of a JMB ehsar (full-time worker) identified as Mohammad Hanif alias Kamal, Saidur Rahman managed to escape.
In the early hours of March 30, 2007, six top militants of the JMB, including its 'supreme commander' Maulana Abdur Rahman and second-in-command, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai were executed in different jails in Bangladesh. The other senior leaders of the outfit who were hanged were Majlish-e-Shura (the highest decision-making body) members Abdul Awal, Khaled Saifullah and Ataur Rahman Sunny and suicide squad member Iftekhar Hasan Al-Mamun. All of them had been pronounced guilty by the Supreme Court of involvement in the killing of two judges in Jhalakathi in November 2005. On March 4, 2007, President Iajuddin Ahmed had rejected the mercy petitions filed by the convicted militants paving the way for their execution.
Prior to the March 30, 2007 execution, JMB was led by a triumvirate consisting of its ‘supreme commander’ Abdur Rahman, a former activist of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai of the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Muhammad Asadullah al-Ghalib, an Arabic language lecturer at the Rajshahi University and chief of the Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (AHAB). Of these, Maulana Rahman was projected as spiritual leader of the organisation while Bangla Bhai functioned as the second-in-command and the outfit’s 'operational chief'. On March 2, 2006, Abdur Rahman, surrendered after a 34-hour siege on his East Shaplabagh hideout in Sylhet City, 200 kilometres northeast of capital Dhaka. Arrested along with Rahman were his wife, sons, daughters, grandson, domestic helps and some associates. Four days later, on March 6, 2006 the JMB number two Siddiqul Islam hiding in a tin-shed in the remote Rampur village under the Muktagachha sub-district of Mymensingh, 120 kilometres north of Dhaka, was wounded and captured, after skirmishes with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Asadullah al-Ghalib had been arrested since February 23, 2005.
Operational details of the outfit were overseen by a seven member Majlish-e-Shura. Apart from Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam, the Shura consisted of Ataur Rahman Sunny (arrested on December 14, 2005), Abdul Awal (arrested on November 18, 2005), Rakib Hasan Russel alias Hafez Mohammad (arrested on February 28, 2006), Faruq Hossain alias Khaled Saifullah, ‘commander’ of the Rangpur-Dinajpur region (arrested on April 26, 2006) and Salahuddin alias Salehin, ‘commander’ of the Sylhet-Mymensingh region (arrested on April 25, 2006).
Some of the other leaders of the outfit were Maulana Akram-uzzaman, Abdur Rouf, Maulana Shahidul Islam, Maulana Mahadi, Sheikh Maulana Noman, Maulana Manjur Ahmed, most of whom were reportedly trained in Afghanistan. Maulana Fariduddin Masud, a former Director of the Government-run Islamic Foundation, is also suspected to be a top leader of the JMB. He was arrested on August 22, 2005 from a London-bound flight at the Zia International Airport in Dhaka.
The JMB has grown primarily due to the nonchalant attitude of the Government and partly because of the official promotion. For instance, the eight JMB cadres arrested from Parbatipur on May 30, 2002 were subsequently released on bail and investigations were stalled after the case documents went missing in a "mysterious" fire at the Parbatipur police station.
The outfit's growth received a boost after the Bangladesh National Party-led coalition Government under Prime Minister Khaleda Zia came to power in 2001. Many members of the JMB and JMJB have invariably been found to be cadres of the Islami Chhatra Shibir (ICS), student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, a partner in the ruling coalition. Such unbroken linkages with the Jamaat-e-Islami have helped the outfit immensely not just in terms of unhindered growth but also in terms providing relief in the event of intermittent official action. Following the August 17, 2005 developments, during which the outfit carried out serial blasts in 63 of the 64 Districts in the country, international pressure grew on the government forcing it to take action against the outfit.
Prior to that, the JMB, for long, promoted the building of mosques and Madrassas (seminaries), some of which have developed into effective training centres for the outfit's radical mobilisation. For example, with assistance from Ghalib, JMB cadres used the facilities of some 700 mosques built across Bangladesh by the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, which is based in Kuwait.
In 2003, decoded diaries of some arrested Islamist militants is reported to have revealed that the outfit had training camps in 57 districts with bases at the Ahle Hadith mosques and seminaries. "They have well-equipped training stations in all the 16 northern and some southern districts, and small stations in other districts where they operate," the then Inspector of Joypurhat Criminal Investigation Department, Khalilur Rahman, had told The Daily Star.
Although the outfit was formed in Jamalpur district, its terrorist campaign is based in the North Bengal region, Daily Star reported on August 28, 2005. Rahman's relatives in the Dinajpur and Rajshahi districts helped him expand his organisational activities in these districts.
According to Growing Fanaticism and Extremism in Bangladesh: Shades of Taliban, published by the opposition political party, the Awami League, the JMB is active in the Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Jamalpur and Bagerhat districts.
Cadre and Organisation
The outfit is known to maintain about 10,000 fulltime and 100,000 part-time cadres. Reports also suggest that there are approximately 10 lakh trainees of the outfit.
The cadres belong to a varied spectrum of the society, including teachers of universities, Madrassas and ordinary people. There are different wings of the outfit, including those related to finance, public relations, external links and the publicity and recruitment wing, which is reportedly the largest of them all. While a relatively small wing looks after armed training, the intelligence wing has cells in different political and non-governmental organisations.
The JMB has reportedly received funds from individual donors in countries like Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Several international NGOs such as the Kuwait-based Revival of Islamic Heritage and Doulatul Kuwait, UAE-based Al Fuzaira, Khairul Ansar Al Khairia, Bahrain-based Doulatul Bahrain and the Saudi Arabia-based Al Haramaine Islamic Institute have provided, over the years, a generous amount of funding to the outfit.
The JMB and its leaders are reported to have invested in a large number of shrimp farms and cold storages in the south-western region of Bangladesh. The outfit is also alleged to be involved in activities such as money laundering which ensures a steady flow of finances to its coffers. Funds through the Hundi (illegal money laundering mechanism) channel are generated through operatives in places such as Dhaka, Jessore and Chittagong.
JMB cadres and students of Madrassas affiliated to the outfit collect tolls regularly for running the organisation, according to Daily Star.
JMB leader Asadullah Ghalib, who is also the Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh chief, after his arrest on February 23, 2005, admitted to have spent 'crores of taka' for building mosques and seminaries, giving military-style training to Madrassa students and other organisational works. Similarly, JMB chief Abdur Rahman's international connections are spread over few Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia.
An analysis of the seizures from JMB cadres and their hideouts indicate that the outfit uses or has access to time bombs, detonators, petrol bombs and RDX explosives. Militants of the JMB are known to receive extensive training in the explosive making. The JMB's involvement in the August 17, 2005 country-wide bombings is also a pointer towards its explosive making and planting expertise.
The JMB is also reported to be procuring its arms and explosives from the militant groups in Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, India and China, which is brought into the country through the land and sea routes.
Note:Compiled from news reports and are provisional.