The London-based NGO Green Crescent, which runs the madrasa-cum-orphanage in Bhola that turned out to be a mini-ordnance factory Tuesday, had plans to set up two more training centres for militants in Doulatkhan and Lalmohan upazilas of the district.
Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) officials said the four militant suspects arrested at the madrasa revealed that the NGO has already purchased 10-12 acres of land in remote areas of the upazilas. But the arrestees could not clearly locate the areas.
At a briefing in Barisal yesterday the Rab said the militant den has more developed mechanism for operating terrorism and sabotage activities than Islamist outfits like Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). The madrasa in remote Ram Keshab village of Borhanuddin upazila may even have connection with international terrorist organisations.
Major Qutubur Rahman Sarkar of Rab-8 in Barisal said, “The militants are more upgraded, modernised and well-organised than traditional Islamist militant groups like the JMB, reports our correspondent in Barisal.
The law enforcement agency yesterday recovered a speedboat and two bottles of acid from the madrasa. It also raided a Doulatkhan clinic financed by Green Crescent, a UK charity bearing registration no 1099233 and located at 62 Green Pastures, Stockport as per its website. The Rab however found none at the clinic.
The Rab has meanwhile started a massive hunt to catch main suspects madrasa founder Faisal Mostafiz, 40, son of Mustafizur Rahman alias Golam Mustafa of Char Umed village in Lalmohan upazila, and Faisal’s cousin and caretaker of the madrasa Mohammad Badol Miah. The arrested suspects said the two had gone on a visit to Chittagong.
Talking to The Daily Star, Rab Lt Commander Mamun-ar-Rashid, who led the operation, said they would arrest the two main culprits, which would ultimately lead to revelation of many things.
On Tuesday, the Rab unearthed the mini-ammunition factory inside the madrasa-cum-orphanage and seized 10 firearms, 2,500 bullets, 3,000 grenade ball splinters, 200 gram gun powder, different parts of ammunition and 72 books on Islami jihad, Abu Al Moududi and Osama bin Laden.
Meanwhile, the home ministry yesterday asked all district administration and law enforcement agencies to remain alert and beef up security and vigilance to avert any untoward incident following unearthing of the ammo factory.
“We have been asked by the home ministry to remain alert and increase security,” Deputy Commissioner of Bhola Md Mesbahul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
Busting the den, the Rab arrested Maulana Mohammad Russell, Jasim, Abul Kalam and Abdul Halim.
During interrogation they told the Rab that a local committee comprised of Badal Sikder, Humayun, Alam, Shipon and Ripon supervised the activities of Green Crescent with the help of Maulana Mohiuddin, superintendent of Borhanuddin Darul Ulum Qawmi Madrasa and leader of the Qawmi Madrasa Association, the Rab claimed.
They filed two criminal charges with Borhanuddin police against the four militant suspects.
“We suspect that militants used to take trainings at the madrasa at night and perhaps they used the identity of students as a cover,” said a Rab official. “We have got some sensational information which we cannot disclose now for the sake of investigation.”
Locals said unknown people including women often visit the madrasa by microbus and private cars in the dead of night.
“We have heard sounds of vehicles going to the madrasa around midnight every now and again,” said Montu Mian, 65, who lives very close to the boundary wall of the madrasa. He, however, cannot say who the visitors are.
When Faisal Mostafiz, known to the locals as a Bangladeshi expatriate in London, bought land from his father-in-law in 2005, he told the locals that a social welfare organisation will be constructed there, Montu said.
But when construction began in 2007, mysteriously no locals, not even labourers from any nearby area, were employed for construction work, he said. Later also, when the madrasa opened no local students got admission, he added.
Locals said when the madrasa started they saw more than 50 students of different ages–both male and female–with turbans on their heads and their bodies covered with veils frequently visiting the madrasa at night and leaving early in the morning.
Arrested Maulana Mohammad Russell used to learn the holy Quran at a mosque beside his home in Joya village of Borhanuddin upazila, some 10km from the Green Crescent madrasa. During a visit to his house, family members told The Daily Star that a person named Zahur Maulana took Russell to Kushtia several years ago.
After returning from Kushtia, Russell, eldest son among the five children of farmer Abu Bashar, was admitted to Darul Ulum Keratia and Qawmi Madrasa in Borhanuddin and studied there for a year before getting a job at the Green Crescent Madrasa through his madrasa chief Mufti Mohiuddin.
“I got him the job,” said Mohiuddin. “One day I visited Russell and saw huge political books there. I asked him to leave the organisation. But as he did not respond, I expelled him from my madrasa,” claimed Mufti Mohiuddin, whom locals consider as a mysterious person.
There are several hundred unregistered Qawmi madrasas and NGOs in Bhola, according to district administration sources.
The district administration and law enforcement agencies yesterday held a meeting and decided to form a committee with police, the UNO, social welfare officer and ansar personnel to locate all madrasas in Bhola.
Created in 1998, the charity NGO mainly operates in Bangladesh but has also started working in Pakistan, according to its website.
In Bangladesh, Green Crescent got registered with Bhola Socialfare Office on April 13, 1999 with registration no 59/99 as an orphanage and free medical centre.
During the registration, a three-member managing committee was placed with Shafiur Rahman as its president, Faisal Mostafiz as vice-president and Saifuddin Badal as secretary.
Its registration expired on November 15, 2005 and it has not been renewed.
The organisation has a bank account at the Doulatkhan branch of Uttara Bank.
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