Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tahrir Leaders' Arrest Not 'Surprise'; Govt probing militant links for sometime

Investigators are now probing Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh's suspected involvement or link with militancy at home and abroad following Thursday's arrest of 10 of its leaders and activists in Rajshahi.

Sources in the law enforcement agencies yesterday said the arrests were not unexpected and that the agencies were looking for Tahrir men after a few of them distributed leaflets at Baro Masjid in Rajshahi around 10 days before the arrests.

Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) Commissioner Mahbub Mohsin yesterday said the arrest of Tahrir leaders on Thursday was not surprising. "We had been looking for the organisation's leaders and activists for distributing leaflets at Baro Masjid," he told The Daily Star.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies suspected Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh as a militant organisation and kept it under watch for quite a long time although it is not officially declared a militant outfit, said a top official of a law enforcement agency in Dhaka.

Meanwhile, The Daily Star yesterday received a fax dated September 18 sent in the name of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) that apparently acknowledged Hizb ut-Tahrir as its 'front organisation' and asked the government and all law enforcement agencies to refrain from harassing its leaders and activists.

The message also reiterates Tahrir Chief Coordinator Mahiuddin Ahmed's demand for releasing the 10 arrested leaders and activists within 48 hours and threatened that otherwise "Bangladesh will be stained with the blood of law enforcers and all the advisers".

Although Hizb ut-Tahrir has been campaigning in the country for several years by distributing leaflets and putting up posters, its activities came to the notice of law enforcers after the grenade attack on the then British high commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury at Hazrat Shah Jalal Shrine in Sylhet on May 21, 2004.

Tahrir men had put up anti-British and anti-US posters around the shrine two days before the attack, which made investigators suspect that the attack was carried out by Hizb ut-Tahrir. And since then the outfit has been alleged to have militant links at home and abroad, said a law enforcement official involved in the probe into the attack.

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Nur Mohammad yesterday told the media that Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities in Rajshahi are suspicious and that they are investigating the outfit's objectives and activities. He said they are cautious not to let similar incidents take place elsewhere.

"The leaflets distributed in Rajshahi contain objectionable statements against the state and the government. We are investigating the line of their activities," the IGP said.

Another law enforcement agency source said Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh was on the list of suspected militant organisations prepared by intelligence agencies, including police and Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), when JMB started militant activities openly.

Rab Additional Director General Col Gulzar Uddin Ahmed, who led the investigation into JMB's militant activities and massive terror attacks, told The Daily Star yesterday that many statements of Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh are similar to those of the JMB.

"We are yet to trace any terrorist activity by Hizb ut-Tahrir. Its activities are being watched," Gulzar said.

Boalia Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ramzan Ali, who was tasked with investigating activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir after Thursday's arrest, said over phone, "I am investigating if the 10 arrested leaders and activists of Hizb ut-Tahrir are involved with militancy."

He said on September 9, Tahrir men distributed leaflets in front of the Baro Masjid in Rajshahi after Esha prayers. "The language of the leaflet was objectionable. Since Hizb ut-Tahrir's name was on the leaflets, we were looking for their activists," he added.

The leaflet reads, "Our rulers have discarded the Quran and Sunnah...They have handed us over to our enemies. In this holy month of Ramadan, we have to take oath to dethrone our rulers and establish the rule of Khilafat."

Hizbut ut-Tahrir also criticises sending of forces in United Nations Peace Keeping missions for protecting "enemies" instead of "turning them into the flag bearers of Islam".

A law enforcement agency source said Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh sought permission from an intelligence agency in Rajshahi on Wednesday for holding a press conference at Rajshahi City Press Club on Thursday but did not get the permission.

The police arrested the 10 Tahrir men when they attempted to hold the press conference without prior permission.


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