Militants plotted to establish ‘Caliphate Village’ in Bangladesh


Islamist militancy outfit Jamaat Ul Ansar Fil Hind Al Sharqiya (JAFHS) wanted to establish ‘Caliphate Village’ within Chittagong Hill Tract areas. Kingpins of this dangerous group wanted to buy lands and run militancy activities under the garb of agricultural farms. They also were planning to lure local residents towards religious conversion. For this mission, JAFHS had established secret connections with several leaders of Tablighi Jamaat.

According to law enforcement agency sources, JAFHS were continuing recruitment and training of militants and were giving them combat training along side teaching methods of making improvised explosive devices (IED). It said, two top dogs of JAFHS, former college teacher Shamim Mahfuz aka Shamin Mahfuz and agriculturist Mohsin Imam were running this militancy outfit copying the ideologies of Harkatul Jihad Bangladesh (HuJI-B), a banned jihadist outfit. Spiritual guru of JAFHS is HuJI-B leader Abu Sayeed alias Doctor Jafar, who currently is a condemned prisoner in Bangladesh jail.

A source of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) said, Shamim Mahfuz was a brilliant student at cadet college. She obtained outstanding result in secondary and higher secondary examinations. Onwards Shamim obtained honors-masters from Dhaka University and PhD from the Jahangir Nagar University. Later he joined a leading college in Bangladesh as a teacher.

The source said, Shamim Mahfuz got radicalized and became a great fan of radical Islamic militancy activities from his student life, when he came into contacts of Hizbut Tahrir and later few other militancy groups. Since then he was having aspiration of establishing caliphate in Bangladesh, and as part of it, he wanted to first establish a ‘Caliphate Village’ in the Chittagong hill tract area.

Shamim’s cohort agriculturist Mohsin Imam had obtained higher degree from the Agricultural University in Bangladesh. Imam’s wife is a government service-holder. As Shamim began his efforts of buying agricultural land in Chittagong Hill Tract area, he came into regular contact with his university friend Nathan Bawm, leader of a terrorist group named Kuki Chin National Front, which also is known as Bawm Party and Kuki National Front (KNF).

Law enforcement agencies are continuing drives to arrest JAFHS kingpins Shamim Mahfuz and agriculturist Mohsin Imam.

It may be mentioned here that, since August 2022, youths in various parts of the country started getting disappeared from their homes. Later it was revealed that these youths were lured towards militancy and left homes for joining jihad. Law enforcement agencies started getting information about existence of Jamaat Ul Ansar Fil Hind Al Sharqiya (JAFHS) when few youths who had disappeared were arrested. On the basis of information obtained from these newly-joined members of Jamaat Ul Ansar Fil Hind Al Sharqiya (JAFHS), Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) began operations targeting jihadist hideouts and training camps within Bandarban and Rangamati districts in Chittagong division. Following these operations, RAB officials told media that the kingpins of Jamaat Ul Ansar Fil Hind Al Sharqiya (JAFHS) had entered into a secret agreement with Kuki National Front (KNF), a terrorist group in the hill tract areas run under the command of Nathan Bawm. Under this agreement, KNF undertook responsibility of giving combat training to the members of JAFHS until 2023. It was also revealed that a large number of HuJI-B members had also joined JAFHS, under the directive of HuJI-B kingpin Abu Sayeed alias Doctor Jafar. It was also revealed that the key mastermind of JAFHS, Shamim Mahfuz was arrested by the Detective Branch in 2014. In 2015, former emir of JAFHS, Mainul Islam aka Ali Hassan Osama aka Roxy was also arrested. Mainul, a former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student front Islami Chhatra Shibir, had been expelled from Rangpur Cadet College. During their stay in prison, both Shamim Mahfuz and Mainul Islam met HuJI-B kingpin Abu Sayeed. On getting released from prison on bail, Shamim, Mohsin and Roxy began fresher bids towards implementation of their dream of transforming a secularist Bangladesh into a Caliphate. At that stage, they also succeeded in establishing connections with Taliban groups as well as few other militancy outfits based in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kingpins of JAFHS also established contacts with militancy groups based in Turkey, while they had formed ideological alliance with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

It is also learnt that in 2017, Shamim Mahfuz, Mohsin and Roxy had visited Rohingya camps and held secret meetings with several Rohingyas, who already were connected to Myanmar-based militancy outfits, including Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

While law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh are still investigating the source of funding of JAFHS, it was revealed that an individual nicknamed ‘Bikash’ whose real name in Masud had donated BDT 300,000 to JAFHS by selling his vehicle. Bikash aka Masud was an employee with the postal department, who had left the job by pretending as mentally instable. Current emir of JAFHS, Amir Tomal has donated a large sum of cash to JAFHS by selling his house. Additionally, a government physician in the hill tract area was sending donation to JAFHS every month.

It is further revealed that JAFHS is receiving donations from various sources in Bangladesh and abroad. Law enforcement agencies are trying to identify the donors of JAFHS.

How JAFHS came under radar of country’s law enforcement agencies?

In September 2022, a young physician named Shakir Bin Wali was arrested in Dhaka on allegations of inspiring youths into militancy and recruiting them to a new militancy outfit. Following information given by Shakir, police arrested Mohsin Imam Real, an agriculturist and alleged financier of the militant group, on October 17. Mohsin named Shamim and Mainul in his statement given to a court.

Shamim was close to Nathan Bawm, head of the separatist group Kuki-Chin National Front or KNF, known as the Bawm Party, when they were students of Dhaka University, said Asaduzzaman. Shamin studied sociology while Nathan was a student of the university’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Mainul contacted Nathan after he faced challenges in training recruits in the hill tracts, said the CTTC chief.

They struck a deal at a hotel in Cox’s Bazar for the training of militants in exchange for money, he said.

“Mainly they spread militancy under the guise of people running a madrasa, converting people of other religions to Islam and preaching Islam. They wanted to form a large group through recruitment, financing, purchasing arms and training to use them”.

JAFHS recruited 70 to 80 youths with the objectives to establish a strong position in the hill tracts, conduct military training, carry out terrorist attacks and then return to the hills.

Shakir Bin Wali had travelled to the hill tracts every month to teach the militants how to treat a wounded person.

The police unit arrested five suspected members of the group in October. The suspects were identified as Md Abdullah, 22, Md Tambul Islam, 33, Md Ziauddin, 37, Md Habibullah, 19, and Mahmudul Hasan, 18, were apprehended in Dhaka’s Demra area.

Citing the arrestees, the RAB also said dozens of runaway youths were taking training in the hill tracts with the help of the separatists – a rare nexus that triggered concerns over domestic and regional security.

The RAB later arrested seven militant suspects and three alleged separatists during an operation on the hill tracts. The local administrations have closed the hill tracts to the tourists for the operation.

This anti-militancy drive shall continue.

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