A new militant outfit namely Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya is found to have set up a training facility at the camp of Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), an armed group, in the hill areas of Bandarban.
The law enforcement agencies have tracked down the militant den and have been operating joint drives at the camp, according to sources.
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), at a press conference on Monday, told the media that some 55 young people from 19 districts left their homes, what they call ‘Hijrat’, and joined the new militant outfit.
The elite force also disclosed a list of 38 such youths with detailed information and said some of them are staying at the remote training camp in Bandarban.
The law enforcers have arrested 12 members of Jama'atul Ansar throughout the last one week and came to know about the militant training facility while grilling them. More than 50 members of Jama’atul Ansar are believed to be staying there.
According to law enforcement agencies, Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya was formed under the initiative of some leaders of three banned militant organisations – Ansar Al Islam, JMB and Harkatul Jihad. They launched the organisation in 2017, but determined the name in 2019.
It was a unique concept to run a militant training facility at the shelter of an armed hill group in the Chattogram Hill Tracts. Earlier, some militant outfits set up hideouts at the hill tracts buying lands and establishing madrasas. In cases, they tried to hide their activities under the banner of a non-government organisation (NGO).
Sources involved in the investigation said Jama'atul Ansar keeps its handpicked youths in small groups under the custody of its senior members. The shelter houses are called ‘Ansar House’. They receive basic training, including physical exercise, at open spaces. Later, the selected ones are sent to the KNF camp in Bandarban for further training.
The training programme of militants was launched at the KNF camp in January. The militants learnt how to operate AK-47, pistols and katta guns. Besides, they received training on creating improvised explosive devices (IED) and launching ambushes.
The KNF arranged the facility in exchange for money, the sources added.
Another agency engaged in combating militancy said the fresh militant activities started a few years ago. The law enforcers received some information regarding the issue when they questioned militants of different organisations, including Harkatul Jihad, several years back.
The man, who is believed to have connected the militants to the KNF, was arrested in 2011 on allegation of militant activities in the hills. After being released from the prison, he was arrested again several times.
One shot dead
The law enforcers obtained a picture that shows a militant who died in a training camp in the hill being accorded with final respects by people in military uniform.
The corpse was of Dr Ahmad, a Jama’atul Ansar member. According to intelligence reports, Dr Ahmad was a pseudonym of Zahir Uddin, 33, hailed from Mukilla village in Sonaimuri of Noakhali.
He, a father of two, left home around one year ago. Later, he called his wife on imo app and said he migrated to Turkey illegally.
Hazera Begum, the wife, told Prothom Alo that she does not know the whereabouts of her husband. There have been occasional conversations between them through the imo app.
It was a one-way contact as she has never been successful to connect her husband dialing the same number through the app, she added.
However, he used to send different amounts of money – ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 – through mobile financial service bKash. He sent Tk 10,000 for the last time on 7 September.
Zahir talked to his wife for the last time on 22 May.
Sources said he was shot dead in firing of a rival group of KNF in the hill. His family is yet to know about the death as the militant organisation continued sending the money.
Nizamuddin alias Hiran, a resident of the same village, also left home along with Zahir Uddin. Few days later, Nizam phoned his wife and said his location at Phatikchhari in Chattogram.
After a few days, he called again through the imo app and said he went to Oman illegally, said his wife Farzana Akter, adding that they have conversations now and then, but he cannot say his exact location.
Who belong to KNF?
The KNF is a relatively new organisation in the hills. Although it was formed under the initiative of a section of the Bom ethnic community in Bandarban, they claim to have represented six ethnic minorities of the hills.
The organisation came to limelight after it demanded a separate state with Baghaichhari, Barkal, Jurachhari, Bilaichhari, Rowangchhari, Ruma, Thanchi, Lama and Alikadam upazilas of Rangamati and Bandarban through its Facebook page.
They claim to represent six ethnic groups—Bom, Pankhwa, Lusai, Khiang, Mro and Khumi.
The KNF said in a series of statements circulated on social media that they have formed an armed group called the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA). More than one hundred members of the military wing went to Myanmar's Kachin state for guerrilla training three years ago.
The trained team returned in 2021 and went into hiding this year.
Nathan Bom, a resident of Aden Para in Ruma upazila and a fine arts graduate of Dhaka University, is the chief of KNF. He founded a non-government organisation in his area and named it as Kuki-Chin National Development Organisation (KNDO). Now he is in hiding.
Meanwhile, the KNF issued a threat through its Facebook page, saying “If there is any attempt to attack our headquarters near Phiangpadung Para, it will take 1-2 minutes to turn into a terrible form.”
Khandaker Al Moin, director of RAB's law and media wing, told Prothom Alo on Tuesday that a coordinated operation was launched at the place where the militants were receiving training under the umbrella of the hill organisation. As the area is very remote, no one has been arrested so far. The operation is underway.