‘Biggest militant threat’ country has ever faced
Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya posed a bigger security threat than any militant outfit ever did, law enforcers said.
Commenting on Jama'atul Ansar's combat training, operational tactics and activities, officers said members of the newly emerged militant outfit were highly motivated.
Several officers who seized documents during raids on Bandarban hills said the militants followed the code of conduct of global terror organisations Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Their plan was to establish a caliphate in Bangladesh through armed struggle and, if necessary, carry out attacks on key installations and important personalities, Rab officers said, adding that the militants' aim was to fight non-muslim people in India, Pakistan and Myanmar, the officials added.
To reach their goals, the group recruited young men, took them to the hills, and made them go through rigorous combat training provided by the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), an armed group of the Hill Tracts, they added.
Jama'atul Ansar has 55 members trained in the use of firearms that include assault rifles, officers said.
The militant leaders wanted to have 313 trained members, and money was not much of a problem for them because funds came from foreign and local sources. The organisation also owned businesses.
Rab officers learnt these by interrogating the arrested militants, including their two top leaders, seized documents, and analysing the video made by the suspects on their training.
"With motivation, determination and combat training, Jama'atul Ansar is the biggest militant threat Bangladesh has ever faced from militants," said a Rab officer, wishing anonymity.
Lt Col Moshiur Rahman Jewel, Rab director (intelligence), said, "By analysing the video, one clearly understands that those militants are highly capable in terms of firearms and physical training. It would have been a catastrophe if they managed to come to the plain lands and carried out attacks."
Its members are trained in using assault rifles, and five or six of them have the expertise in making powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) with gelatin sticks, he added.
The eight-minute video shows the militants being trained in modern fighting techniques. They know about trigger safety and how to properly hold a weapon. The video also shows the commander assigning jobs to the armed members through hand gestures during an operation and informing them about enemy locations by drawing a map on the ground.
Three officers, who were members of the team that raided the camps in the hills, said Jama'atul Ansar has a camouflage uniform and its members are trained to ambush. For self-defence, the militants dug bunkers and trenches around their camps at an altitude of 3,000 feet.
"No other militant organisation has such training," said one of the officers who has been involved in tracking down militants for the last nine years and participated in several operations, including the one during the Holey Artisan Bakery attack.
The militants used to guard the camps along with KNF members and often engaged in gunfights with other insurgent groups of the hill tracts. One of their members, Abdur Rahman who went by the alias Jahir, got killed during one such fight around seven months ago.
Another man died there due to starvation and sickness.
As many of the KNF members are converted Christians, Jama'atul Ansar took their help, said an officer.
The KNF provided arms training and shelter under a three-year deal, they added. The KNF, which has around 200 armed members, would get the trained militants to fight against other insurgent groups in the hills.
Jama'atul Ansar was formed by some leaders of Ansar Al Islam, Neo JMB and Huji-B. Its leaders used to keep an eye on mosque goers and selected potential recruits. The leaders then motivated the potential recruits for one to three years.
The highly radicalised individual was then asked to leave home to become a militant.
The recruits were asked to go through physical training and acquire the skills of electricians, carpenters, masons, mobile phone mechanics, drivers and tailors. They also preferred to recruit physicians, especially the surgeons, according to the seized document of the militant outfit.
Many of the 55 militants trained in the hills have MBBS and business degrees while others have madrasa education.
Eight of them, including two key leaders, have been arrested.
The militant outfit owned farm animals in Munshiganj, Cumilla and the hill tracts, officials said, adding that it also owned a perfume and panjabi shop in the capital's Gulistan and a mobile accessories shop in Maghbazar.