Following the arrest of six suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Murshidabad district on Saturday, the National Investigation Agency has said it believes that Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) may have played a role in helping al-Qaeda spread its influence in the region.
Al-Qaeda has been trying to gain a foothold among Bengali labourers in Kerala, just like the JMB, according to the agency.
The police said there were enough inputs to believe that key JMB operative Mohammad Salauddin alias Salehan had taken shelter in villages in districts such as Coochbehar, Uttar Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad and Nadia that are located along India-Bangladesh border. Salauddin has been sentenced to death by a Bangladesh court in connection with the 2016 Holey Artisan Café attack case, and is also wanted in connection with the 2014 blast in Khagragarh in Bardhaman, and the 2018 Bodh Gaya explosion.
After the Bardhaman blast, the NIA, state intelligence agencies, and Kolkata Police Special Task Force (STF) launched a crackdown on the JMB, and several suspected militants belonging to the outfit were arrested in the last few years, stymying its growth in the region.
Law-enforcement agencies believe there is a possibility al-Qaeda was trying to fill this vacuum and utilise the youths who are now in custody to spread its ideology.
Apart from the six held in Murshidabad, three were arrested from Ernakulam in Kerala. The NIA has said the suspects were radicalised by a Pakistan-based al-Qaeda module on social media. It was allegedly planning to carry out attacks at multiple places across India, including the National Capital Region.