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International Last Updated: May 4th, 2007 - 10:48:12

HUJI: Lengthening Shadow of Terror
By Bibhu Prasad Routray, SAIR 31/7/06
Aug 1, 2006, 08:06

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Very little is known about Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B)'s operations in Bangladesh other than the fact that it was formed in 1992-with ideological guidance and financial support from Osama bin Laden. It is also known that the outfit maintains close contact with its counterpart in Pakistan, with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and with other jehadi organisations operating from Pakistani territory, including particularly the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). HuJI-B maintains about 700 trained cadres in at least six training camps in the Chittagong Hills, and also trains many youth from the Rohingya community along with some volunteers from Thailand. The organisation, however, is not known to have engaged in too many terrorist operations within Bangladesh, except for its plots to assassinate Awami League (AL) leader Sheikh Hasina twice in July 2000 and the quiet role it played in the August 17, 2005, country-wide blasts largely attributed to the Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

Nothing links HuJI-B, at an organisational level, with India except for the fact that Mufti Abdul Hannan, HuJI-B's Operations Commander, who been trained in Peshawar in Pakistan and fought in the 'jihad' in Afghanistan and was accidentally arrested in Dhaka on October 1, 2005, had, spent six years in the Deoband madrassa (seminary) in Uttar Pradesh (UP). What is, however, increasingly a worrisome affair is HuJI-B's increasing involvement in terrorist attacks in Indian urban centres in recent years. Investigations into these incidents, which date back to the late 1990s, have revealed the ability of the ISI to successfully exploit Bangladeshi territory and its porous and unmanaged borders with India, to penetrate deep into the Indian heartland and execute hits, which terrorists operating in Jammu & Kashmir, and earlier, in Punjab, could not achieve. Investigators also underline the expanding ability and the growing challenge of collaboration between militant groups.

Among the first incidents of HuJI-B's operations in India to come into the limelight was the August 1999 arrest of four persons at Guwahati. The arrested persons were identified as Muhammad Faisullah Hussaini of Hyderabad in Pakistan's Sindh province, Muhammad Javed Wakhar of Karachi, Maulana Hafiz Wakhar of Kupwara in Kashmir, and Qari Salim Muhammad of Muzaffarnagar in UP. Interrogations revealed that all four had arrived in Dhaka from Karachi and had crossed over into India through the Karimganj border. They left behind a consignment of explosives in a mosque in Bangladesh for collection later, to be used for future operations in India. Intelligence sources used a decoy to bring this consignment into India. It consisted of 34 kilograms of RDX, nine timer devices and 30 detonators. They further revealed that the HuJI-B had recruited and sent a number of young immigrant Muslims from Assam to Pakistan via Bangladesh. Assam Police subsequently arrested Muhammad Muslimudeen, the Chief Organiser of the HuJI. Investigations also led to the finding that the Naib Amir (Deputy Chief) of HuJI-B in India, Muhammad Fakruddin, was an immigrant Bengali Muslim from Goalpara District in Assam and was based in Pakistan.

HuJI-B's direct involvement also came to light in the terrorist attack on January 22, 2002, at the American Center in Kolkata. An early morning attack by a group HuJI cadres left five policemen dead on the spot. Both Kolkata police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the incident, responsibility for which was claimed by two organisations, HuJI-B and the Asif Reza Commando Force (
ARCF). In fact, the ARCF was an adjunct of the HUJI, formed and manned largely by Bangladeshi migrants in India and some experienced HUJI-B cadres in India who were trained at ISI- backed training camps in Pakistan. It was formed in the third week of December 2001 at a village, 15 kilometres from the Habibpur town, populated by illegal Bangladeshi migrants in the Malda District of West Bengal, following a meeting of middle-ranking HuJI-B leaders and Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists, who chalked out plans to float an affiliate of the outfit for local operations.

Three years and nine months later, on October 12, 2005, a suicide bomber walked into the Special Task Force (STF) office of the Hyderabad Police and detonated a pressure-activated bomb carried in a backpack. It was the eve of the Hindu Dussehra festival, and the office was almost empty. Consequently, just one home guard on duty was killed along with the suicide bomber and a second policeman was seriously injured. It was the first time that a suicide bomb attack had been carried out in the City. Investigations pointed to a joint operation by cadres of the JeM, HuJI and LeT.

It was a pity that the security establishment in the city had chosen to ignore the trends available to them, indicating that Hyderabad was becoming a hotbed and possible target for the HuJI. Previously, in August 2005, police had arrested Mohammad Ibrahim, a resident of Hyderabad, who revealed details of his travels in Bangladesh in 2004, his meetings with Ghulam Yazdani, the person involved in the Hiren Pandya murder in Gujarat on March 23, 2003, and his encounters with several HuJI terrorists from India and Pakistan. Four months before his arrest, in April 2005, Ibrahim had been sent to Karachi on a Bangladeshi passport, from where he was taken to an ISI camp in Balochistan. He and five other Bangladeshis underwent a 21-day training programme in handling arms and explosives, and timers and remote controlled devices. They then returned to Bangladesh and were assigned targets in India. Evidently, his very significant revelations did not register adequately within the security establishment in Hyderabad.

The liquid explosive used in the Hyderabad suicide attack had been smuggled in by HuJI-B militants from Dhaka, while other parts, such as insulation wires, a voltmeter, a 9-volt battery and other articles, which were required to assemble the bomb, were bought from local markets in Hyderabad. The entire operation had, in fact, been finalised in the Dhaka head office of the outfit, where militants from Hyderabad were involved in providing logistical support to the core strike team, which included a Pakistan-trained Bangladeshi fidayeen (suicide cadre) Mohtasin Billa. Subsequently, Nafiq-ul-Bishwas (who was arrested, thereafter, in November 2005 in Malda), Sharif, Mohtasin Billa and Abdul Kalim aka Arshad Khan, carrying a five-litre jerry can containing explosives, crossed over to India through the West Bengal border and reached Howrah. They boarded the Hyderabad-bound East Coast Express, but the journey was discontinued at Kakiwada as the jerry can started leaking, giving off a pungent smell. The terrorists then undertook a bus journey from Kakiwada to Vijayawada and a separate bus trip to Hyderabad. They stayed at the house of Aslam, Abdul Kalim's brother. The explosive was assembled by improvised explosive device expert, Mohtasin, who later executed the suicide attack. Arshad and Sharif escaped to Bangladesh.

Two and half month's later, on December 27, 2005, three HuJI-B militants involved in the Hyderabad attack were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi police. Interrogations confirmed all that Ibrahim had narrated four months earlier. All of them had been trained in an ISI-run camp in Balochistan. Among their future targets were the Bangalore Software Park, the Hyderabad Hi-tech City, certain politicians, railway stations and busy places in Delhi and other parts of north India.

HuJI-B is indeed finding local support among Muslim organisations and outfits to recruit youth in India. Officers investigating the Hyderabad STF attack came to learn about as many as 500 Hyderabadi Muslim youth who had undergone arms training at the behest of the HuJI-B in Bangladesh and Balochistan in Pakistan.

HuJI-B also executed a successful attack in collaboration with the JeM and SIMI at the Sankatmochan Temple and the Railway Station at Varanasi on March 7, 2006. On April 5, 2006, the UP Special Task Force (STF) arrested six persons, including Waliullah, the 32-year old Pesh Imam of a mosque in Phulpur near Allahabad. All of them had gone to Pakistan for arms training. Waliullah, a former SIMI cadre, was HuJI-B's area commander for eastern UP. Three Bangladeshi HuJI-B cadres, who had planted the bombs, managed to evade arrest and safely escaped to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshis had in fact stayed in Phulpur for four days (March 3-6) before arriving in Varanasi to execute the operation on March 7.

Waliullah's interrogation threw further light on the October 29, 2005, explosions at New Delhi. He revealed that one of three Bangladeshis, involved in the Varanasi attack was in fact a part of the team that carried out the blasts in New Delhi as well, along with cadres from LeT.

Further details of HuJI-B's Indian operations emerged with the November 2005 arrests of HuJI-B militants, Nafiq-ul-Biswas and Suhag Khan, at Malda in West Bengal. Suhag Khan disclosed his real identity as Hililaluddin aka Hilal, a resident of Bualia in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. Nafiq-ul-Biswas revealed that he ferried terrorists from Bangladesh to India through the porous West Bengal border. His job was also to procure explosives and raise funds by selling narcotics supplied to him. He said he had ferried Mohtasin, Arshad and Sharif - all involved in the Hyderabad suicide attack.

The December 28, 2005 attack at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in which a Delhi University mathematics professor was killed, was also attributed to the HuJI-JeM combine. Intelligence sources indicate that Shahid, a Hyderabad local based in Bangladesh and linked to HuJI-B and JeM, played a key role in the IISc attack.

Despite these and other incidents, security planners appear to be failing to take adequate note of the emerging threat from Bangladesh, and to frame strategies for its effective neutralization. Porous borders with Bangladesh and the increasing population of illegal migrants in India compound a problem that is yet to be adequately acknowledged within the realm of Indian politics. A continuous monitoring of the support network that the outfit thrives on will be key to HuJI's neutralisation. In this, there is an urgent need to look beyond the electoral opportunism that has dominated the political orientation towards illegal Bangladeshis in India.

Source:Ocnus.net 2007

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