31 Hizb-ut Towhid men arrested in Kushtia
Police yesterday arrested 31 Hizb-ut Towhid activists, including its Kushtia regional chief, and seized books and leaflets on Jihad from Kushtia town.
They also recovered two kilogram of a white powder, which is yet to be identified.
Police claimed that of the arrestees, six were top-level leaders of the outfit including two alleged militant trainers who are also policy-makers of the organisation.
Acting on a tip off, a police team, led by Officer-in-charge of Kushtia Police Station Babul Sardar, raided the organisation's Pather Disha office at Bara Bazar in the town around 11.00am and made the arrests while they were holding a secret meeting.
Sources said the arrestees admitted that they have long been members of Hizb-ut Towhid.
All the seized books were written by Baiyezid Khan Panni of Tangail district and the leaflets urged people to come forward to establish "real Islam" following its leader Baiyezid Khan Panni.
Locals said they would often see a group of people gathered at Pather Disha office, owned by Mahbub Rahman. People aged between 15 and 25 used to assemble at the office from different parts of the country. They held daylong meetings and left at night, locals claimed.
Police said it was their monthly gathering yesterday. Several top leaders went there to indoctrinate the youths.
Police, however, refused to give any details about the arrested men saying that they need more time to interrogate them.
The Daily Star correspondent yesterday talked, over telephone, to Abdur Rashid who claimed to be the second-in-command of Hizb-ut Towhid Kushtia region.
He claimed his organisation is not involved in militancy. "Some people of the Bara Bazar area want to occupy our leader's [Mahbub] land," he said.
He claimed he has a High Court order that clears them of allegations of militancy.
Police sources said more drives might be conducted following information gleaned from the arrestees.
They say that a large number of trained Hizb-ut Towhid men are active in Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga and Jhenidah of Khulna division.
Different sources say that at least 1,200 trained members of the outfit are active in the region. Most of them are madrasa students belonging to poor families and Imams of mosques.
According to Kushtia and Meherpur police, they raided different dens of the outfit and arrested many Hizb-ut activists in the last few years.
On September 9, 2003, 45 people including Hizb-ut Towhid men were injured when they clashed with locals at Poradah Bazar in Mirpur upazila in Kushtia. Police later arrested 43 Hizb-ut Towhid activists.
Of them 13 were produced before court. They were sent to jail and later released.
In Meherpur, 14 Hizb-ut Towhid men including its Meherpur unit chief Anisur Rahman were arrested in separate raids by Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and police at Gangni on April 13, 2007.
Police recovered firearms, bomb-making materials, books on jihad and leaflets from their possession.
In Jhenidah, 34 Hizb-ut Towhid men were arrested on July 13, 2004. Police also seized books and leaflets and other materials from them.
According to a press report published a few months ago, the law-enforcement agencies have listed 29 Islamic organisations for suspected involvement in militancy and Hizb-ut Towhid is one of them.
Allahr Dal, Islami Samaj, al Harat al Islamia, Jama'atul Faliya, Towhidi Janata, Biswa Islami Front, Juma'atul al Sadat, Shahadat-e-Nobuat, Jama'at-e Yahia al Turat, Joyshe Mostafa Bangladesh, al Jihad Bangladesh, Woarat Islamic Front, Jamaat-as-Sadat, al Khidmat, Harkat-e-Islam al Jihad, Hijbullah Islami Samaj, Muslim Millat Shahria Council, World Islamic Front for Jihad, Joysh-e Mohammad, Hijbul Mahadi, Kalemar Dawat, Islami Dawati Kafela, al Islam Martyrs Brigade, Dawat-e Islam, Tanjim, Hizb e Abu Omar, and Jadid al-Qaeda Bangladesh are in that list.
For the last few years Hizb-ut Towhid has been carrying out secret operations in the name of "dawat" in different parts of the country, especially in the southern region.
In some cases police arrested some activists of different Islamic organisations during their suspicious activities.
For instance, law enforcers arrested a few Hizb-ut Towhid activists in Bhola in early September last year for their suspicious movement.
Superintendent of Police of Bhola GM Azizur Rahman had told The Daily Star last year that Hizb-ut Towhid has started its activities in the district.
He said the outfit seems suspicious as Hizb-ut Towhid's activities have similarity with the activities and groundwork of banned militant organisations.
The organisations' activities surfaced early in 2008 when some of its operatives were seen distributing books and leaflets propagating Islamist militancy among students of the school.
Hizb-ut Towhid in its different publications being distributed among youths is trying to teach them that jihad or military programme or armed struggle is a must to establish the rule of Islam.
The organisation campaigns for armed struggle using the verses of the holy Quran. "… [if anyone] leaves jihad or armed struggle, they shall not be accepted to Allah as a momen [devout]," reads a publication of Hizb-ut Towhid titled "Islamer Prokrito Salah" [Real Salah of Islam].
In the book Hizb-ut Towhid says the Muslims as a whole are a military nation. The whole nation is a military force, each and every Muslim [man and woman] is a soldier, a Mujaheed and a warrior.
"The training of this military force is called Salah," the book reads.
"As long as the government allows such campaigns or activities and does not prohibit such propaganda, we cannot consider it as an offence," observes a top-level official of a law-enforcement agency.