12:00 AM, March 25, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 25, 2009

Militants' 'ammo factory' busted

London-based Bangladeshi sets up so-called madrasa in remote Bhola village; the den fortified with canal, hanging bridge; arms, ammo materials seized

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Julfikar Ali Manik with Shariful Islam


The firearms, ammunition, grenades and bomb-making materials and equipment seized in Ramkeshob village of Borhanuddin upazila in Bhola. Inset, the madrasa encircled by a moat.Photo: STAR

In a chilling reminder of how the militants are still alive and kicking, the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) yesterday unearthed a mini-ammunition factory inside a madrasa-cum-orphanage in a remote village of Bhola.
During the bust, they recovered a huge cache of firearms and ammunition, explosive substances, four pairs of German-made uniforms and booklets on jihad, Moulana Moududi and al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
Besides, the elite crime-busters arrested four suspected militants--Abul Kalam, Abdul Halim, Jasim and Moulana Mohammad Russell.
The raid was still on as of filing this report at 1:00am.
Earlier at night, the coastal district's Superintendent of Police Azizur Rahman told The Daily Star that the arrestees did not yet disclose their organisational identity. But the materials seized suggest they are lined to a banned Islamist group like Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Following up leads, a team of Barisal Rab-8 had been keeping a close watch on Green Crescent Madrasa in Ramkeshob village under Borhanuddin for the last one week.
Then at around 11:00am yesterday, they stormed the building that stands on a four-acre land.
The seizure list includes nine firearms, 2,500 bullets, 3,000 grenade splinters, an explosives blaster, 200 gram gunpowder, bullet-making components and equipment, two walkie-talkies, two bows, two remote control devices, binoculars and a book on how to operate firearms.
Pretty well furnished, the seminary has no signboard. It drew attention of the neighbourhood, but few knew it was a militants' den capable of making improvised explosive devices (IED) and assembling ammunition.
Rab officials said they suspect it might have been used for training militants.
Lt Commander Mamunur Rashid who led the operation told The Daly Star that the madrasa, launched recently, is circled by a trench-like canal to keep off the locals.
In the daytime, the occupants would use a hanging bridge over the canal to get in and out. But they would remove it at night-time so no-one could gain access to the premises.
Referring to the items recovered, Mamun said, "We've found materials needed to assemble bullets. They include percussion caps, cartridge cases and bullet heads. And all these are made in the UK.”
About the blasting machine, Mamun said it is a military item that can detonate wired-up explosive devices planted in the distance. It is usually used in training on how to explode bombs.
"The recovery also indicates they [the militants] have all equipment necessary to make IEDs," he continued.
In primary interrogations, the arrestees told the Rab officials that they were recruited by one Moulana Mohiuddin.
They also said Faisal Mostafa, a Bangladeshi expatriate in London, has been financing the madrasa.
He is nephew of former BNP minister and ex-lawmaker from Bhola-3 Major (retd) Hafizuddin Ahmed.
Faisal, who has been living abroad for over two decades, often comes to Bangladesh. Now he is on a visit to Chittagong.
His father Golam Mostafa, Major (retd) Hafizuddin's cousin, too is settled in London.
Contacted, Faisal's father-in-law Shahidul Haque Naquib Chowdhury, who was the founder president of Bhola BNP, said they are shocked to know of the arms haul.
As far as he is concerned, he continued, Faisal and a few of his friends have been running an NGO named Green Crescent. Their organisation is headquartered in Doulatkha of Bhola.
He said the building has been constructed on a piece of land that he sold to Faisal. He was told it would be used as a vocational training school for orphan children.
The Rab team hauled in 11 students of the madrasa for questioning. But they could not capture Kajal, caretaker of the building, as he has gone to Chittagong with Faisal.
The students told the Rab officials that the madrasa is only a month old.
Those involved in the operation said they can tell from the interior and exterior and tile floors that a handsome amount of money had been spent on construction of the building.

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