Members of a “Neo-JMB” cell planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at two places and attacked policemen at three other spots in the capital in the last six months, counterterrorism officials said.
The cell, suspected to have 10 to 12 members, used two members for each operation, and the IEDs were made at one of its dens in Narayanganj’s Fatullah, the officials said.
In a drive yesterday, members of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police destroyed the hideout and arrested two militants from there, they said.
The officials also claimed to have recovered bomb-making chemicals and toy guns from the scene.
The arrestees were identified as the owner of the house Farid Uddin Rumee, 27, a teacher of Mechanical and Production Engineering in the capital’s Ahsanullah University, and Mishuk Khan Mizan, 24, a final-year engineering student of Narayanganj Polytechnic Institute.
Rumee’s wife Jannatul Foara Anu, 26, a banker, was detained for interrogation.
Counterterrorism officials said a recent “IS” video, where some militants are seen holding guns, is believed to have been shot at the den and those in the footage are the members of the cell, who are inspired by the global terror outfit.
Police first picked up Mizan from Jatrabari area around 6:00pm on Sunday and based on information gleaned from him raided the den at a tin-shed one-storey building early yesterday, Saiful Islam, deputy commissioner of the CTTC unit, told The Daily Star.
But another suspect, Rumee’s younger brother Jalauddin Rafiq, 23, who completed an engineering course recently, managed to flee the spot during the drive, said police.
Rumee lives with his wife in a two-storey building in nearby Shiarchar area. Around seven months ago, he asked the tenants in the one-storey building to leave, said counterterrorism officials.
Rumee then allegedly set up the bomb-making den in the house having six 10-feet by 12-feet rooms, they said.
“We recovered three IEDs which were ready for explosion. We also found toy guns resembling AK-47s, a fake pistol and two vests,” Deputy Commissioner Saiful said.
CTTC officials said it was possible to make at least 20 IEDs with the substances that have been recovered.
Saiful said the explosives seemed similar to those exploded in Dhaka recently.
On April 29, two traffic police constables and a community traffic policeman were injured in a blast in the capital’s Gulistan. Later on May 26, two people, including a female police officer, were injured when a bomb went off near a police pickup near Malibagh intersection.
On August 31, two policemen were injured when another bomb went off at Science Lab intersection.
Besides, IEDs were recovered in the capital’s Paltan and Khamarbari areas on July 24.
Talking to reporters after the den was busted yesterday, CTTC chief Monirul Islam claimed that the arrestees were directly involved in planning and “executing the incidents”.
He said they were investigating to trace the others involved.
Unarmed policemen and police petrol teams were the militants’ target as the law enforcers were working hard to destroy their networks, he added.
Five CTTC teams took part in the drive yesterday. Early in the day, the CTTC officials along with members of the district police cordoned off the one-storey building.
The bomb disposal team of the CTTC reached the spot around 10:45am and detonated five IEDs in phases. The first controlled explosion was carried out at 12:57pm while the last one at 2:09pm, said CTTC officials.
The explosions blew off part of the roof of the house. At that time, a fire broke out and it was extinguished by firefighters.
Before the blasts, CTTC officials shifted 17 families to safety.
CTTC chief Monirul said the toy guns recovered yesterday resembled the ones seen held by militants in a recent IS footage.
“We are also suspecting that the vests recovered from the house were used for recording video footage. We are also trying to find whether those were suicide vests,” he said.
A top CTTC official told The Daily Star that some members of the “Neo-JMB” cell were trying to establish communication with the IS. “We have traced a cell member, who is living in Yemen,” he said.
Meanwhile, the authorities of Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology suspended Rumee following his arrest, said Muhammad Abdul Gafur, registrar of the private university.
“We never found anything suspicious in his behaviour and he was regular at work. We are surprised to know that he was involved in militant activities,” he said.