KOLKATA: There was a saying in urban Bengal: Kolkata will not see a terrorist attack like in Mumbai because it is a safe haven for terrorists. No terror outfit would want to jeopardise it with an attack.
This perception has now changed, with the arrest of three suspected members of terror outfit Ansarullah Bangla Team, an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent. Documents recovered from the men showed that they had prepared blueprints to attack major landmarks in central Kolkata. They had even scouted to buy chemicals to prepare bombs.
Investigations revealed that the accused, who were all Bangladesh nationals, had even prepared a list of bloggers from West Bengal whom they wanted to kill in attacks resembling the murders of ‘Muktomona’ bloggers in that country.
The gravity of the situation was evidenced when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who generally remains tight-lipped on arrests of terror operatives, urged residents near the India-Bangladesh border to remain alert on individuals trying to befriend and mix with locals.
What Mamata highlighted is precisely the problem law enforcement agencies face while trying to nab terror operatives slipping to West Bengal from Bangladesh. “Whenever there is a major operation by the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh, members of their home-grown terror outfits such as Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) slip through the porous riverine border with the support of their contacts in West Bengal and mix with the Muslim population here. The search for these suspects then becomes akin to finding a needle in a haystack,” a senior BSF official told The Sunday Standard.
According to Kolkata Police Special Task Force officials, West Bengal’s strategic location — a junction of borders of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan — makes it an important location for transit and hiding.
“The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan channels funds to Bangladesh through Nepal — both Bangladesh and Nepal are separated by a mere 27 km of Indian territory at Chicken’s Neck corridor near Siliguri. During crackdowns in Bangladesh, terrorists flee to Nepal through this corridor. Terror funds from Pakistan are generally sent towards propagation of religion and building of new mosques, but the money is diverted for brainwashing youth for terror activities,” a senior STF official said.
Major incidents in west bengal
American Center Attack January 22, 2002
Two motorcycle-borne assailants opened fire from an AK-47 at the American Cultural Center in Kolkata, killing five constables and injuring 20 bystanders. Prime suspect HuJI operative Aftab Ansari alias Farhan Malik was arrested from Dubai the next day and deported to India on February 9. Special CBI court found Ansari and six others guilty and awarded death sentence to Ansari and Jamiluddin Nasir on April 28, 2005. Calcutta High Court upheld the death sentences on February 5, 2010.
Burdwan bomb blast October 2, 2014
An accidental bomb blast at a madrasa in Khagragarh of Burdwan district killed two persons — Shovan Mandal and Shakil Ahmed — and injured another, Abdul Hamid. Ahmed’s wife Rumi Bibi and Halim’s wife Amina Bibi, who were found inside the madrasa, were arrested. Documents on Al Qaeda were found at the site. Probes revealed that the madrasa was one among a string of madrasas run by JMB in the state. An STF operation in West Bengal and Assam on September 26, 2016 nabbed six JMB operatives.