Bangladesh arrests chief of banned outfit HuJI

Bangladesh arrests chief of banned outfit HuJI Dhaka: Bangladesh's elite security force RAB on Thursday arrested Maulana Mohammad Yahiya, the suspected chief of banned Islamist terror outfit HuJI in the country, along with two other militants from central Kishoreganj district.

"A RAB squad arrested him (Maulana Mohammad Yahiya) and his two accomplices from a passenger bus, which was carrying them from Sylhet to Kishorganj," Commander M Sohail, the spokesperson of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) told mediapersons.

"We also recovered some (banned) Jihadi books, a book on how to produce bombs and three bus tickets from their possession? Sohail said.

Mohammad Bahauddin, 22 and Yar Mohammad, 50, the two militants accompanying Yahiya, were arrested at a makeshift RAB checkpost near Bhairab Bridge.

Sohail said following the arrest of his predecessor Maulana Farid earlier this year, 46-year-old Yahiya was entrusted to lead the Pakistan-based Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) in Bangladesh after it was designated as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" and "Specially Designated Global Terrorist? group by the US state department in 2008.

HuJI chief and his two accomplices briefly appeared before the media, but were not allowed to speak to reporters.

RAB said, they were on a lookout for Yahiya as part of their anti-militantancy campaign. He was accused in the August 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally and Ramna Batamul blast case of 2001.

Yahiya was also wanted in a number of criminal cases, including planting a bomb at a July 2000 rally of Sheikh Hasina during the earlier tenure of the Awami League-led government. HuJI announced its emergence in Bangladesh in April 1992. During initial interrogations, Yahiya said HuJI had nearly 30,000 operatives across the country and were trying to regroup amid an anti-militancy campaign in Bangladesh.

According to Sohail, Yahiya told RAB that he had joined the Mujaheedin to fight the Russians in the 1980s and was specially trained to make sophisticated bombs and operate state-of-the-art weapons.

RAB officials earlier said after the banning of the outfit in 2007, HuJI tried to reorganise under a new name, 'Islami Dawat Kafela'. Subsequently, it emerged as an Islamic Democratic Party (IDP), calling for interfaith harmony apparently to hide its real objectives.

They have campaigned to turn Bangladesh into an Islamic state.

Amid earlier warning that Islamist militants may be trying to regroup, the police and paramilitary forces conducted massive anti-militancy operations across Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Hasina, who survived a grenade attack in August 2004 when HuJI activists hurled 13 grenades at her rally, has underlined her government's determination to root out terrorism from the country.