Several banned militant outfits of Bangladesh are desperate to raise funds to operate their so-called jihadist activists in the country, Intelligences agencies sources say.
Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Jama'at-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) are now judged to be considerably more capable than analysts believed a year ago. And its intentions are unrelentingly aimed at inflicting catastrophic harm.
Drugs trafficking activities form another link in a large chain of criminal activities to raise financing across country by militant organisations. Intelligences agencies source said banned militant organizations are involved in illegal drug smuggling including cocaine and Yaba. They are also involved in bank robbery and are trying to mount cyber attacks on banks to draw off money to fund their activities. They are also involvement in the fake currency circulation in the country. Intelligences agencies suspected that militants regularly tap into illegal money flows to fund their operations.
Most of the militant organisations continue to access funding from wealthy benefactors, legitimate business and criminal activities. But in the face of law enforcers' strong surveillance they are failing to fund themselves. Most of the organizations are currently under significant financial pressure.
After questioning of four members, arrested in connection with the seizure of liquid cocaine concealed in a container in Chittagong Port, investigator found Atikur Rahman and Mostofa Kamal were involved in militants activities in Bangladesh.
Experts said a terrorist cell needs for its members reliable channels of communication, including highly secret channels to its leadership, from which it receives instructions. Although communications costs have been reduced considerably through the use of mobile telephones, pre-paid cards and e-mail the procurement and use of communication tools can entail significant expenses.
Training new recruits constitutes a large investment for terrorist groups, both in terms of ideological indoctrination as well as the procurement of practical items to prepare for attacks. Although part of the general preparation can be carried out in terrorist training camps, some specific operations may require specialist skills (such as piloting planes) which can only be achieved with expensive training.
The letter from Maulana Moin Uddin alias Abu Jandal to Huji men advises them to use the word "Book Purchase" instead of "ambush" while planning attacks like last year's ambush on a prison van in Mymensingh to free fellow militants, according to a photocopy of the letter, seized by RAB on Thursday from one of the 12 arrested HuJI men. The elite force captured the men from different areas in the capital on Wednesday and Thursday.
"We want to be out of prison. I'm thinking of engaging you and Habib in this operation. If you agree, I will let you know what to do through a letter. To know your opinion on this I'll just ask if you want to 'purchase new books'," reads a part of the letter, written in Bangla.
According to RAB officials, Abu Jandal wrote the letter to Maulana Mainul Islam Mahim, who is allegedly organising inactive HuJI operatives across the county and trying to coordinate with al-Qaeda in the Indian Sub-Continent (AQIS).
Under the law, prison inmates cannot use mobile phones. If the letter is authentic and Abu Jandal's claim of using a mobile phone in prison is true, then it also exposes a serious security lax in Kashimpur prison.
At a press briefing on Thursday at the RAB headquarters, RAB officials said the banned militant outfit was planning to free its leaders, including Moin, by attacking and cutting the grills of Jail. Having realised that it would be risky, it then made plans to ambush prison vans.
In the letter, Moin asked Mainul to change names of some key figures. He even suggested a few changes -- Salman for Mufti Zafar, Toha for Habib, Al Mamun for Altaf and Fedaul Islam for Lelin.
Mufti Zafar, Altaf and Habib are among the 12 arrested. (They were all placed on three day's police remand on Friday). The letter was not addressed to anyone in particular and there was no date on it. At the bottom, there was only a signature, no name.
Of the three JMB leaders, one was later arrested but the two others remain at large. At least 54 militants are now on death row. But they cannot be executed as they are under trial in other cases.
Mohammad Sanwar Hossain Additional Deputy Commissioner Dhaka Metropolitan Detective Police (DMDP) said, "HuJI and ABT were planning to fund their activities by looting banks and by siphoning off money from the account holders of the banks."
"The militants were also trained by international militant organizations like al Qaeda to hack the passwords of the bank account holders' debit and credit cards."
Detectives have focused on assessing militant capabilities after their alleged involvement in looting Ashulia's Commerce Bank. Most significantly, perhaps, DB investigators have found evidence in the logs that mark a browser's path through the Internet that HuJI and ABT operators spent time on sites that offer software and programming instructions for the digital switches of the bank.
After the failure of Ashulia bank loot, they were planning to resort to different other techniques to collect funds, he said.
"After breaking the team into smaller groups, they were being trained by those who are technologically sound among them," added the detectives. "They have peer educators."