Preaching militancy, building network
Suspected militant leader Muhammad Jasimuddin Rahmani, inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, “spiritual leader” of al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, has been building radical Islamist network in the country at least for the last five years, investigators say.
The investigators, who have been following his speeches and activities since 2007-08, found that Jasimuddin was not a follower of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Rather, he preferred to follow Awlaki, a US-born Yemeni who was killed in Yemen in an American drone attack on September 30, 2011.
Though Jasimuddin, 43, who studied in madrasas at home and abroad, was preaching radicalism to his disciples, he was yet to form any organisation, investigators said.
But he and his followers used to share their views on a website named "Ansarulla Bangla Team". Investigators consider them as members of Ansarulla group. They found that the hosting server of this website was in Pakistan.
A source said the investigators do not have a clear picture of the total strength of this group in the country. But they have learnt that there are 200 to 300 people who are active with the website and who believe it is their duty as Muslims to kill if someone talks or works against Allah, Quran, Hadith and the Prophet.
"They believe it is the duty of the state to take action against atheists or those who talk against the Quran, Hadith or Prophet,” said an investigator on condition of anonymity.
“They also believe the government does not follow Islamic principles, so it is their duty as citizens to kill them [those who are anti-Islam]."
According to a source, a probe has found that Jasimuddin was asked by his followers why he was not giving any organisational shape to his group. In response, Jasimuddin used to say that an organisation would be formed.
His disciples, however, operated through small cells of six to seven people, the way global terrorist body al-Qaeda operates, said a source. They used different websites as the manual for their operations.
The police arrested Jasimuddin and 30 of his followers from the southern district of Barguna on Monday.
But, an investigator said, all the 30 people are not necessarily members of the Ansarullah group. The group's members are mainly based in private universities in and outside Dhaka and come from affluent families.
Investigators consider it as an emerging militant group and a potential threat since it is extremely motivated by the radical speeches of Jasimuddin and Awlaki. Its goal is to establish Islamic rule in the country.
The investigators have collected many audio and video materials of Jasimuddin's sermons that try to inspire others to believe it is their duty to kill anyone who is against Islam and the Prophet.
The group has developed a widespread online network as well as online radio. Jasimuddin has more than two dozen publications. Other militant groups in the country also read his publications like textbooks, said a source.
Sources say this group has links with all other radical organisations in the country, including banned Islamist militant groups like Harkat-ul-Jihad-Al Islami (Huji) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
After the execution of Abdur Rahman, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai and four other top militant leaders of JMB in 2007, Saidur Rahman took charge as ameer (chief) of the banned militant group.
After his arrest, Saidur during interrogation told law enforcers that he once was taken blindfolded to a house in Dhanmondi by a group of people.
He could open his eyes inside the house. There he met a man who told him that al-Qaeda considered the JMB as its potential affiliated organisation in Bangladesh.
The man at the Dhanmondi house did not disclose his identity but had asked Saidur what sort of help was required. Saidur asked for money as the JMB was suffering from a financial crisis.
Saidur got some financial help from a group. Investigators believe it was the Ansarullah group, and Jasimuddin was Imam of Hatembagh mosque at Dhanmondi before he moved to his present den at Basila.
The sources said al-Qaeda considered many Islamist militant organisations in different countries as their affiliated organisations. Investigators suspect Ansarullah might be this type of organisation in Bangladesh and Jasimuddin is its spiritual leader.
Investigators suspect the Ansarullah group has links with some NGOs and other private organisations working on Islamic issues.
Some Ansarullah members were responsible for the murder of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February. Rajib was an activist of the Shahbagh movement that demand capital punishment for war criminals.
The sources said the Ansarullah group's members had also attempted to kill another blogger, Asif Mohiuddin, in January.
Some of those arrested in connection with the killing of Rajib and attempt to murder Asif confessed to police that they were followers of Jasimuddin.
Their statements paved the way for police to arrest Jasimuddin on criminal charges.
Joint Commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam told this correspondent that Jasimuddin would be shown arrested in the cases relating to the Rajib murder and attack on Asif.