DHAKA—Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies have arrested a Rohingya man from Myanmar and a local man on suspicion of recruiting for the banned extremist organization Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), in Chittagong.
The pair were arrested in Patiya sub-district of the port city bordering Cox’s Bazar, which is home to camps housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled a Myanmar military crackdown in Rakhine State two years ago.
Both the arrested men—Mohamed Abdullah Al Sayeed, 35, of Rajshahi division in northern Bangladesh, and a Rohingya man, Mohamed Ismail, 33—were remanded in custody following their appearance at the Judicial Magistrate Court in Chittagong, said Borhan Uddin, officer-in-charge at the Patiya Police Station.
Both were detained pending further interrogation, he said.
The Bangladesh police’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said in a press release on Thursday that Sayeed hails from Rajshahi district but used to live in Leda, in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf subdistrict, while Ismail was a resident of Camp 1 in Nayapara, Teknaf. Both were arrested while trying to flee a police operation.
The RAB said it received a tip that a few “active members” of the JMB were heading toward Cox’s Bazar from Chittagong on a public bus to distribute “extremist books and leaflets”.
During a search, the RAB seized “terrorism-instigating leaflets” and six “extremist” books, it said.
During interrogation, the suspected extremists admitted to police that they had been targeting youth and other innocent people with their “wrong” interpretation of the Hadith (the teachings of Muhammad) and the Koran for a long time, according to the RAB statement.
According to the Dhaka-based Daily Star, the RAB claims JMB operatives are trying to boost their “organizational activities” in Teknaf with the help of Rohingya.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Mashkur Rahman of RAB 7, who led the operation, told the daily that, “Ismail is a Rohingya. He and Sayeed were planning to distribute the leaflets and books among people in Cox’s Bazar, but the RAB foiled their attempt.”
According to the report, Sayeed has been traveling to and from Teknaf for the last two years with the aim of recruiting locals to take part in “anti-state activities”.
“Ismail came to Bangladesh during the Rohingya influx in 2017. He used to work as an auto-rickshaw driver in Teknaf. Sayeed was introduced to him while riding in his vehicle around that time,” the report quoted the RAB official as saying, adding, “Ismail eventually joined the outfit through him.”
The report also quoted RAB-7 commander Lieutenant Colonel Moshiour Rahaman Jewel as saying, “The duo informed us that they were heading to Cox’s Bazar to instigate local youths [to commit extremist acts] as well as recruit new members.”
Earlier in April 2019, Bangladesh’s top-ranking counterterrorism police official expressed concern that Rohingya children would be at risk of being lured into extremism as they became youths, if their repatriation to Myanmar was delayed for too long.
The Irrawaddy earlier reported that Monirul Islam, the chief of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime Unit, said the presence of the Rohingya presented “a big problem” for Bangladesh, adding that the government was trying to find a way to send them back to Myanmar “peacefully”.
Last week, the chairmen of Bangladesh’s Cabinet Committee on Law and Order discussed the latest crime figures from the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and announced that the internal situation in the camps was better than ever.
More than 730,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since the Myanmar military launched security operations in Rakhine State on Aug. 25, 2017.
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