Banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, which remained below law enforcers' radar for many years, has lately been gathering strength through collecting funds mainly by robbery, counterterrorism officers said.
JMB militants in jail are also convincing other inmates, who were jailed for robbery and other similar crimes, to share with JMB a portion of their loot, police officers said.
They are telling inmates, “If you spend a portion of the loot for the welfare of Islam your sin will be forgiven,” an officer told The Daily Star.
There is information that JMB men are trying to regroup and commit robbery and mugging to collect funds, said Moniruzzaman, additional deputy inspector general (intelligence and special affairs) of police headquarters.
“Besides, some of their leaders are trying to inspire the members again but we are aware of this and working on it. So, their activities remain very limited,” he added.
A high official of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police told The Daily Star, “To gain sympathy of robbers, the militants are also spending a good amount of money on helping the robbers to continue their legal battle to get out of jail on bail.”
There is information that the JMB has managed to send around Tk 17 lakh to some of its leaders in prison, the officer said wishing anonymity.
The JMB inspired robbers' loot is usually split three ways: their personal expense, JMB funds, money for smuggling into jails.
They also help the family members of jailed operatives, he said.
JMB's involvement in robbery first came to light in 2001 when it attacked several NGO offices. The militants continued to commit robbery until 2005 when law enforcers launched a crackdown on them and Rapid Action Battalion was formed.
The JMB, which was formed in 1998, came to be known as the mainstream JMB after the emergence of “Neo-JMB”, has also made a blueprint for killing a number of people they targeted years ago, the officer said.
The killing of writer-publisher and former communist party leader Shahjahan Bachchu in Munshiganj in June was an act of JMB. Bachchu was in JMB's target since he started criticising different faiths and dogma on Facebook in 2009, according to law enforcers.
Abdur Rahman alias Lalu who was suspected of leading the group that killed the writer was once an expert robber. He was radicalised when was in jail for robbery. He was later given the charge of JMB's military wing in Dhaka division, officers said.
Abdur was killed in a “gunfight” with police in June, days after he was arrested. He gave police a detailed account of JMB activities and named a few operatives who were planning a number of killings, investigators said.
A Gonojagoron Mancha organiser was also on their list. The organiser was secretly followed by JMB's intelligence wing, according to an intelligence report of May.
Earlier this year, police found a letter at a JMB hideout in Bogra mentioning the outfit's plan to collect firearms during the upcoming national election when the law enforcers will remain busy.
The outfit on this day in 2005 simultaneously detonated 459 bombs in 63 districts.
It also carried out suicide attacks, including the one that killed two Jhalakathi judges, in November of the same year.
After the synchronised attacks, a total of 159 cases were filed across the country. Police have completed the probes.
They have submitted final reports in 17 cases and charge sheets in 143 cases. In the charge sheets, 1,157 JMB leaders and activists have been accused, according to an estimate of the police headquarters.
The outfit lost its ground amid the crackdown that followed the attacks.
Its founder Amir Shaikh Abdur Rahman, his second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai and four other top leaders were executed in 2007. In the following years, many other leaders, including second Amir Moulana Saidur Rahman, were arrested.
Law enforcers then claimed that JMB's network was dismantled.
The outfit began to come back in operation after 2014, when Salahuddin Ahmed decleared himself as chief of the mainstream JMB
He is now believed to be hiding in India. Salahuddin along with top JMB leaders Jahidul Islam alias Boma Mizan and Rakib Hasan Russell alias Hafez Mahmud were snatched from police by JMB members in 2014.
Police arrested Russell who was later killed in a “shootout” with law enforcers while Salahuddin and Boma Mizan fled to India. Boma Mizan was finally arrested in India earlier this month.
Police have information that the outfit's members involved in robberies gathered at least Tk 90 lakh in last couple of years.
Investigators found JMB members' involvement in snatching Tk 6 lakh from a bKash shop in Rangpur's Kaunia, Tk 35 lakh from a garment factory in Gazipur, Tk 28 lakh in Takhurgaon and Tk 4 lakh in Gaibandha in 2015.
The JMB on April 21, 2015, attacked a bank in Ashulia. Eight bankers were killed in the attack. On December 21, 2015, locals caught four armed JMB men when the militants attempted a robbery at a filling station in Dinajpur, said police.