KOLKATA: Zia Afghani is the Islamised version of Rambo. An original resident of Saatkhira district in Bangladesh, which is just across the Icchamati river in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, Afghani is a veteran of the Afghan war. Having fought against the Red Army of erstwhile Soviet Union, Zia-ur Rahman changed his name to Zia Afghani.
An expert in manufacturing various kinds of explosives, including chemical bombs, and trained to carry out large-scale subversive activities, Afghani had fought successfully and hence was given the responsibility for the 65th branch of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JuMB). He has strong links with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Said an intelligence official: “The JuMB has branches in all the 64 districts in Bangladesh. The 65th branch is the one, which was planning and running the terror module in West Bengal, including the den at Khagragarh in Burdwan district.
“After the Rapid Action Battallion of Bangladesh cracked down on Jamaat and its terror wings in Saatkhira following the Awami League sweeping the polls, Afghani fled to Basirhat and stayed there for some time. But after the accidental blast at Khagragarh, he fled to Karnataka and now believed to be hiding in Kashmir Valley,” he said .
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was handed over a list of more than 100 JuMB terrorists by Bangladesh’s premier intelligence agency, the National Security Intelligence (NSI) when its team had gone to Dhaka last month. It included the names of seven top JuMB leaders who crossed over to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi officials had told the NIA all these JuMB terrorists were wanted for heinous crimes in the neighbouring country and they had close connections with politicians in West Bengal and in other parts of India. All of them had first taken shelter in West Bengal, but after the Burdwan blast, they might have fled the state.
The NSI informed the NIA officials that on February 23, a JuMB team had killed police officers and snatched away three top terrorists at Trishala in Mymensingh district who had been convicted to death and 30 years of rigorous imprisonment in that country.
The entire operation was planned by Sohail Mafuz, who is at present one of the top leaders of JuMB. He was the mastermind who had planned the terror modules in Burdwan, Birbhum and Murshidabad districts of WB where “madrasas” were funded to indoctrinate youths including women in “jihadi philosophy” and imparted training in arms and manufacturing explosives. Among the other top JuMB terrorists who had sought refuge in West Bengal were Anwarul Islam Farooque, Tariqul Islam, and two explosive experts Moulana Tajuddin and Moulana Yahayaha. The NIA officials discovered that JuMB terrorists frequently crossed over to West Bengal and, after acquiring false voter ID cards and at times even Indian passports with the help of local politicians, visited other parts of the country. Most of the top leaders would visit the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka. One of the masterminds behind this large operation to recruit “jihadis” from West Bengal and execute the terror attacks in other parts of the country, Abdul Qader Sultan Armar hails from Bhatkal, but is at present operating from Waziristan near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Abdul along with his brother Shafi were leaders of Indian Mujahideen and, after receiving trainings at Al Qaeda camps in Bangladesh and Pakistan, are currently based in Waziristan and formed the Ansar-ul- Tauhid Hind.
Intelligence sources admitted that following the NIA and NSI meeting, it was discovered that these Islamic terrorists from Bangladesh with multi-nation links used India as a “safe corridor” to travel to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir along with new recruits for being trained there and in Waziristan. On Friday, a high-level meeting between officials of India and Bangladesh was held at Krishnangar in Nadia district bordering Bangladesh. Forty top officials of Jhinaidaha, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Kushtia, Rajshahi and Chapai Nawabgunj accompanied by RAB officials met Indian paramilitary and intelligence officials. Senior officers of Central Government's border demarcation department were also present and such a meeting took place after 18 years and is considered significant as cross border terrorism was the main topic.
Though the NSI and RAB have given a long list of JuMB terrorists hiding in Indian and majority of whom are said to be in West Bengal, the NIA is finding it difficult to trace them as many of them had changed their appearances by shaving off their beards. After marrying local Muslim girls, they managed to obtain Indian voter ID cards and ration cards by adopting the surname of their in-laws. An intelligence official remarked: “Though specific names and their antecedents with descriptions have been given, with the language, culture and food habits being the same it is extremely difficult to discriminate between a Bengali Muslim from West Bengal and a Bangladeshi. It is like searching for a needle not in a haystack but a paddy field!