The National Investigating Agency (NIA), which was initially expected to take custody of six wanted militants of the banned Islamic outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) immediately after their arrest on Monday, has instead decided to just monitor their interrogation by the Special Task Force (STF) of Kolkata Police. Their focus instead will be on using all their resources to track down JMB chief Salauddin alias Salehin alias Sanjeeb, a death row convict who was snatched from a prison van in Bangladesh in 2014, said a source.
The six militants were arrested by the STF from Assam and different parts of West Bengal. Five of them were listed as wanted by the NIA for their alleged role in the blast at Khagragarh, Burdwan, on October 2, 2014. “NIA is in no hurry to barge into the investigation by Kolkata Police. Sleuths from NIA have already met the STF officials,” said a source. “It’s (the arrests) a job well done by the Kolkata STF. They are keeping us updated. It’s not about who nabbed them. We had already filed a chargesheet against five of them. We can interrogate them anytime regarding the Khagragarh case,” added the source.
The NIA is also actively working with the Bangladesh police to nab two more JMB militants, Kausar and Burhan Sheikh. Kausar, a Bangladeshi national, had set up base in Burdwan and was in regular touch with a bomb-making unit. After the Khagragarh blast, he fled from Burdwan. He allegedly used to courier explosive consignments from one location to another. Sheikh used to work at Simulia madrasa in Burdwan where “jihadi training” was allegedly imparted to target women.
As per the NIA Act, the agency will take over the case depending upon its gravity. Whether the six militants were planning a terror attack in any part of India is yet to be confirmed.
The probe into the Khagragarh blast has revealed that the JMB had an extensive presence in Bengal. Sources from the agency said that due to Bangladesh’s geographical proximity to Bengal, JMB militants had taken shelter in different parts of the state. JMB was preparing bombs in its bases in Bengal which they planned to use to topple the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh, they added.
NIA sources also said that JMB militants were using Birbhum as a transit route, due to which they were keeping a close watch on the area. NIA and Bangladesh’s elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) have exchanged lists of JMB operatives and militants believed to be hiding in both countries. Bangladesh had also constituted a six-member team to work against militancy and extend support to NIA in its investigation.