Jaish-e-Mohammed operative Rezwan Ahmed, a Pakistani national, right, and his four local associates at the Rab headquarters in the city yesterday. Photo: Star
The Rapid Action Battalion arrested a Pakistani national and four locals for suspected links to Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in the city early yesterday.
The Pakistani, Rezwan Ahmed, 26, had been coordinating JeM operations in Bangladesh, said Rab officials.
The other arrestees--Nannu Mian alias Belal Mandol alias Billal, 35, Abu Naser Munshi, 28, Imad Uddin alias Munna, 18, and Sadeque Hossain alias Khoka, 19--are his local associates.
Of the five, Billal was arrested near the foot-bridge in front of New Market and the rest including Rezwan were rounded up in Sukanya Tower, an apartment block adjacent to Gausia Market on Mirpur Road.
Billal had been jailed in India for involvement in hijacking an Indian Airlines plane in December 1999.
After serving out 10 years in Guwahati prison, he recently fled back home.
This is the first time that law enforcers here have captured suspected members of JeM, one of the major terrorist outfits operative in South Asia.
In a pre-dawn raid on a flat in the Sukanya Tower, the crime busters also seized three passports, two of them issued in Pakistan, one knife, one CPU, four national ID cards, five mobile phones and 2,000 Indian rupees.
The passports belong to Rezwan, Billal and another Pakistani named Jawad.
Rab sources said Jawad might have fled to India.
In primary interrogation, Rezwan said he had been trained to operate AK-47, machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and explosive devices.
He said his assignment here was to recruit local youths and prepare them to stage attacks in India.
Rezwan and his co-arrestees were paraded before the media at the Rab headquarters in Uttara yesterday afternoon.
Talking to reporters, the Pakistani said he is from Delhi Colony Clifftop in Karachi.
Col SM Matiur Rahman, Rab's additional director general, said Munna and Khoka--two of the locals detained--are sons of Mohiuddin Mian.
Mohiuddin owns the Sukanya Tower. He and his brother Salahuddin had been sheltering the militants, he added.
Rab sources said Mohiuddin, now president of Hajiganj union BNP in Chandpur, had earlier been involved in Jamaat-e-Islami.
Billal told journalists that he was arrested in an anti-state case in India.
He also admitted that he had a role in hijacking the Indian Airlines plane, which was flying to Delhi from Kathmandu.
The hijackers forced the aircraft to land in Kandahar of the then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
The Indian authorities had to set free three militant leaders including JeM supremo Moulana Masood Azhar in exchange for passengers taken hostage.
Billal said he was born in Darampur village under Sylhet Sadar. He is married to a woman hailing from Bashirhat of the Indian state of West Bengal.
He said he had tried to enter India through Satkhira border a few months back to appear before a Bashirhat court hearing a case against him.
Along with another militant group, Jaish is blamed for the attack on Indian parliament in Delhi in December 2001.
It is also suspected to have a role in the abduction and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl in Karachi.
After the parliament attack, Pakistan government banned the organisation and the US State Department listed it as a terrorist outfit.
JeM's main objective is to separate Kashmir from India.
Asked if Rezwan has any links with the local militant organisations, Col Matiur said they have not yet found any.
"We have just started our investigation. We hope we'll be able to come up with more information shortly," he added.
Rab officials said Rezwan had been travelling between Bangladesh and India without any valid documents.
Last year, the Detective Branch of police arrested six foreign operatives of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, and a number of their local associates.
Of the six, three are Indians and three Pakistanis.