Suspected militants yesterday hurled several bombs at a convoy of four prison vans one of which was carrying condemned Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Huji) chief Mufti Abdul Hannan.
Police suspect the attack was carried out to snatch away the top militant.
A group of youths threw the bombs targeting the vans after they reached the Tongi College Gate area on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway around 5:30pm, Hafizul Islam, a traffic inspector in Gazipur, told The Daily Star.
The attackers, however, failed to hit any of the targets.
The vans were transporting several militants, including Mufti Hannan, from a Dhaka court to Kashimpur High Security Jail. The vehicles reached the jail safely later, reports our Gazipur correspondent.
Police claimed to have caught one of the attackers red-handed and recovered a hand-grenade, five crude bombs, two petrol bombs, two machetes and Tk 7,500 from his possession.
The arrestee, who introduced himself as Mostafa Kamal, 25, of Mymensingh, was in the custody of Tongi police.
The other attackers fled.
Police said Kamal “admitted” that he threw bombs at the vans for Tk 10,000.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told The Daily Star last night, “Two crude bombs exploded near the prison vans. We have arrested an attacker. We are looking into the motive and trying to find out who were behind it.”
The incident happened amid intelligence reports that Huji men were planning to snatch away Mufti Hannan and his associates in an ambush on prison vans like the Trishal-styled ambush three years ago.
“We had intelligence that militants had carried out a recce and communicated with prisoners inside jails while making a plan to snatch away Hannan,” Deputy Commissioner of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the DMP Mohibul Islam told The Daily Star.
Mizanur Rahman, senior jail super of Kashimpur High Security Jail, said four prison vans had taken prisoners, including Mufti Hannan and some other militants, to a Dhaka court for hearing yesterday. “We were not officially informed about the van that came under the attack.”
A top CTTC official, wishing anonymity, said the van carrying Hannan was the target.
Two weeks ago, the CTTC unit arrested three suspected militants Abu Bakar Siddik Mahmood, 22, Javed Hossain, 19, and Saleh Ahmed, 49, in Shahjahanpur and Mohammadpur in the capital.
They also divulged a plan to carry out a Trishal-styled ambush to snatched Mufti Hannan and other top Huji leaders.
On February, 23, 2014, an armed gang ambushed a prison van and snatched away three convicted JMB militants -- two of them on death row -- in Mymensingh's Trishal upazila, killing a policeman.
One of them was captured in Tangail soon afterwards and killed in a “shootout” with police.
The Supreme Court on December 7 last year upheld death penalties for Hannan and two top Huji leaders for carrying out a grenade attack on then UK envoy in Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury in 2004.
Hannan faces 24 other criminal cases, including those filed in connection with the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally on the capital's Bangabandhu Avenue. The attack left 24 people killed and around 300 injured.
The 24 cases are now under trial. Hannan has to travel to different courts for taking part in hearings.
On April 30, 1992, the Huji appeared in Bangladesh through a press conference wearing sleeveless olive jackets over their shalwar-kameez.
The militant leaders sat shoulder to shoulder during the press conference at the Jatiya Press Club and boastfully described how they fought in the Afghan war. They demanded that Bangladesh be turned into an Islamic state.
In 2002, the US blacklisted Huji as an international terrorist organisation. It took the then government three more years to ban it on October 17, 2005 after repeatedly denying about its existence in Bangladesh.