Police arrested top “Neo JMB” leader Talha, a death row convict in a case filed for the countrywide series bomb blasts in 2005 and one of the main accused in Burdawan blast in India, in Bogra's Nandigram upazila early yesterday.
The arrestee, Abu Sayeed alias Talha, 35, is a Shura (supreme council) member of the militant outfit and the Southern Region chief of “Neo JMB”, Md Asaduzzaman, superintendent of police in the district, told The Daily Star.
A joint team of Bogra police and LIC wing of Police Headquarters (PHQ) held Talha, alias Karim alias Shyamal Sheikh in Amarpurhat area of Bogra-Natore highway around 1.30am while he was on his way from Bogra to Rajshahi on a motorbike, said the district police chief.
One of Talha's associates, who was accompanying him, however, managed to flee, said Asaduzzaman, an additional deputy inspector general of police.
Police seized a 9mm pistol, ammunition, a knife and the motorcycle from his possession.
Talha, a close relative of Nurul Islam Marzan, reportedly took charge as the outfit's regional leader after he came back to Bangladesh from India two years ago. Before this, the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) had announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to his arrest. He is one of the most wanted accused in the Burdwan blast case.
Marzan allegedly coordinated the 2016 Gulshan café attack which left 22 people dead, mostly foreigners. He was killed in a “gunfight” with police in the capital on January 6 this year.
Yesterday, a Bogra court placed Talha on a three-day remand.
The Bogra SP said they arrested one of the key leaders of “Neo JMB” Sohel Mahfuz. Sohel, who supplied explosives to the café attackers, got involved in militancy through Talha. They were close relatives, he added.
Police said Talha joined mainstream JMB in 2002 and used to work in the recruitment process. He got charge of JMB's Rajshahi region as the military wing chief in 2004 and took part in the operational activities along with JMB's then supremo Shaikh Abdur Rahman and his second-in-command Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai in Rajshahi's Baghmara.
During the countrywide series bomb blasts on August 17, 2005, Talha was involved in the Naogaon court bomb blast. After the court sentenced him to death, Talha fled to India in 2007.
He later married the daughter of JMB leader Eyadul of West Bengal's Murshidabad district in 2009 and started militant activities there. He stayed there in guise of a honey trader after he was appointed as the JMB leader of India's Nadia district in 2010, said police.
He was also given the charge of JMB activities in West Bengal's Birbhum and Bardhaman districts in 2012. Talha was also involved in the Burdawan blast in India on October 2, 2014.
SP Asaduzzaman said Talha again came back to Bangladesh in 2015 and joined Neo JMB. He started working as the southern region chief in 2017.
Asked about possibility of handing over Talha to India, SP Asaduzzaman said that PHQ will take a decision about it if the Indian authority seeks help through Interpol.