The three JMB suspects held with jihadi publications in Naogaon on Tuesday are members of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, police said.
Abdul Karim, 28, a bakery employee, is the president of Shikarpur union Jamaat in Sadar upazila, Naogaon. On the other hand, Shahadat Ali, 32, a tailor, and Hafez Faruk Hossain, 28, a teacher of Shikarpur Hafezia Madrasa, are Jamaat activists, according to police and local Jamaat leaders.
The police say the arrestees have confessed to having links with outlawed militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) under Jamaat cover. The three were plotting to carry out subversive activities on Pahela Baishakh, the police add.
Acting on a tip off, the police arrested Abdul Karim of Chalk Kalidas in Alupatti, Naogaon on Tuesday. Following his statements, the police raided Shahadat's house and arrested the three.
The police also seized over 50 jihadi publications including books written by militant kingpin-suspect and Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh (Ahab) chief Dr Asadullah Al Galib. There were also books published by Jamaat and Islami Chhatra Shibir.
"The three were arrested following specific information of their active involvement with JMB," said M Mofazzel Hossain, superintendent of police in Naogaon, over phone.
Madrasa teacher Faruk had sheltered JMB leader Minhajul Islam, who has been handed down death sentence in the August 17 blast case in Naogaon, say the police, adding Minhajul got a job at Shikarpur Hafezia Madrasa on Faruk's recommendation.
Shahadat and Karim were engaged in luring youths to JMB and jihad against the country by distributing books among them. They both were also engaged in collecting funds for JMB, the police inform.
Soon after the arrests, a number of Jamaat leaders including Sadar Jamaat Ameer Abdur Rahman and Naogaon municipal Jamaat nayeb-e ameer Aynul Haque rushed to Naogaon Sadar police station.
As the Jamaat leaders requested the police for the arrestees' release in presence of the Naogaon SP, they were kept confined for three hours and later released with the undertaking that they won't do so in future.
The local Jamaat leaders denied the arrestees' link with JMB and said their arrest is "conspiracy" against the party and Islam.
Jamaat leader Abdur Rahman said local Awami League leaders threatened them with such fate if they didn't stop politics just a day before the arrest.
"Faruk and Shahadat are active Jamaat workers. They used to hold regular meetings and maintain report cards. They were falsely blamed as JMB activists," said Aynul Haque.
Replying to a question, Haque said they have yet to find any JMB activists inside their party.
"We are sure of the three arrestees that they have no relations with JMB."