Dhaka, January 6 (Dhaka Tribune): The US Department of State has asked US citizens to be cautious about the continuing threats from terrorist groups in Bangladesh and to consider risks of travelling in the country as Bangladesh police killed two top militants of the New Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB), a pro-Islamic State organization.
The State Department updated its Travel Warning to reflect the change in the US embassy in Dhaka’s status to “partially accompanied” – effective from January 5, 2017 – allowing adult family members of US government personnel to remain in, or return to, Dhaka.
This warning for US nationals residing in Bangladesh replaces the earlier Travel Warning of July 10, 2016.
Meanwhile Bangladesh police claimed to have killed Nurul Islam alias “Marjan” who coordinated the July 1 ,2016 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in the posh Gulshan area of Dhaka in which 23 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed.
Two most wanted militants of the New Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) group including the Gulshan terror attack operational commander Marjan were killed in an alleged gunfight with the police’s counter-terrorism unit in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur area.
Formerly an Islami Chhatra Shibir leader in Chittagong University, Nurul Islam alias Marjan alias Shakil, 22, is believed to have been the youngest operations commander of the notorious militant outfit, linked to Islamic State.
The other person killed in the early Friday shootout as Saddam Hossain – alias Rahul alias Sabuj alias Chanchal alias Robi – who is an accused in at least 10 murder cases including the slaying of Japanese citizen Hoshi Kunio in Kaunia town of Rangpur District in October 2015.
Acting on a tip-off that Marjan was staying in Mohammadpur-Beribadh area, police conducted a drive in front of Rayer Bazar martyred intellectuals killing ground [Bodhobhumi] around 3am, Counter Terrorism Unit Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Sensing our presence, the militants opened fire at us. We fired back, leaving the duo injured,” Mohibul Islam said.
Marjan and Saddam were both declared dead when taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal later told reporters that the duo and another had been passing the area on a motorcycle when the police asked them to stop at a check post.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Additional Deputy Commissioner Yusuf Ali said that they had recovered a motorcycle, a pistol, a knife and some explosives from the spot.
Marjan was among 14 New JMB leaders wanted by law enforcers since the Holey Artisan Bakery attack on July 1 last year. Police released his photo on August 12.
Investigators learnt about Marjan after scrutinizing some 30 mobile phones recovered from the restaurant after Operation Thunderbolt on July 2 morning when the five attackers were killed.
On December 25, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal claimed that Marjan would be arrested “anytime” as the law enforcers were chasing him.
Marjan, who had been missing since February 14, 2015, became the operational head of the outfit after the death of Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, Maj (Retd) Murad alias Zahid and another top leader Faridul Islam alias Akash in raids. Marjan was an expert in the Arabic language and in operating heavy arms.
He came from a strict Muslim family of Afuria village under Hemayetpur union in Pabna. He was the second of Nizamuddin and Salma Khatun’s 10 children. He passed his Dakhil exams from Darul Ulum Markaziya Madrasa in Pabna in 2010 and Alim exams from Ariful Jamiul Fazil Madrasa, Pabna in 2012.
Marjan married his cousin Afrin Akhter – alias Prioti alias Fatema Ferdous – in January last year and they disappeared together, according to his family. Afrin was arrested during a drive in Azimpur on September 10 last year. She gave birth to a girl on December 20 while still in custody.
Counter Terrorist Unit chief Monirul said that Saddam was an accused in 10 cases. Police have submitted charge sheets in five of the cases. He was accused of planning the attacks and supplying arms and a motorcycle.
Saddam is the son of Alam Miah alias Jola, and Sufia Begum, hailing from Char Bidhyananda village of Rajarhat Upazila in Kurigram.
A highly-placed source of an investigating agency told the Dhaka Tribune that Marjan had stayed in the militant den at Gobindaganj in Gaibandha for a long period and visited other training camps of the outfit in the northern districts.
He reportedly gave motivational training to seven militants in the den and was brought to Dhaka at the beginning of Ramadan. Of the trainees, five took part in the Gulshan terror attack.
Gulshan attackers had sent updates and photos of the restaurant massacre to an ID using a ‘protected text’. Marjan had the password of the ID .He opened it and then sent the photos to the mastermind and planner.
Islamic State took credit for the attack, reportedly as revenge to the coalition operations against the militant group in Syria and Iraq, and published photos of the massacre.
Marjan was one of the closest associates of New JMB military and operational wing commander Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, who was killed in a raid by the police in Narayanganj on August 27.
Even though Marjan is now dead, at least 14 top- and middle-tier leaders of New JMB are still at large. Marjan’s brother-in-law Sagar is also involved with the same group.
The wanted militants include New JMB’s IT wing in-charge Basharuzzaman alias Abul Bashar alias Chocolate, trainer Jahangir alias Rajib Gandhi, and Musa alias Mainuddin alias Mosiuddin; Sohel Mahfuz alias Hatkata Mahfuz, Ripon, Khalid and so-called ‘big brother’ Junayed Hasan Khan, all of whom fled to India; and Iqbal, Manik, Mamun, Azadul Kabiraz and Badal.
(The featured picture at the top shows police removing the body of top New JMB Operations Commander Marjan after shooting him in an encounter)