Terror Tracker Intelligence Brief: Dismantling of the Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) network in India
Reports from August 27 announced the arrest of Jamaat ul Mujahideen (JMB) cadre, Ejaz Ahmad alias Taufique Raza by the Kolkata Special Task Force (STF) from Bihar’s Gaya district on August 26. While arrests of the members of this Bangladesh based militant group have become a common feature, the latest announcement remains highly notable given the fact that Ejaz was one of the senior most members of the India affiliate- Jamaat ul Mujahideen India (JMI). The JMI was announced by the JMB in February 2018.
While JMI has overall failed to record any significant attacks since inception, recurrent arrests of both ground operatives and senior and mid level leadership is indicative of the group’s continued intention to establish an operational presence in the country. This view is further bolstered by the fact that the latest arrest was the 13th known arrest since January 2019 alone. Moreover, the August 26 arrest follows immediately after a similar security operation leading to arrest of Jahirul Sheikh, a senior JMB facilitator for the jihadist group from Madhya Pradesh’s Indore. The chief IED maker Habibur Rehman was arrested in Bengaluru’s Soladevanahalli locale on July 9. Given the recency of the arrest and the seniority of the caders, it remains likely that the latest security operations were based on actionable intelligence obtained from previous arrests.
Areas of influence, Modus Operandi and Organizational Structure
While a review of the trends of arrest indicates that West Bengal, Bihar and parts of Assam continues to remain the preferred staging areas, with Bengaluru emerging as a notable base of operations. The latter could probably be a critical support base for the wider operations in the southern India as hinted at by intelligence reports in the preceding months.
The senior cadres, like the ground operatives, typically adopt a low profile by engaging in menial jobs or as labourers and lower level contractors in possession of fake Indian documents. This has remained a common feature in most of the arrests made in recent months.
Moreover, while the leader of the militant group Salahuddin Salehin continues to evade arrest, most senior operatives, are known to have remained interconnected, likely aimed at better coordinating operations. This in turn may have potentially facilitated the recent arrests recorded across India. However, preliminary reports indicates that the militant group relies primarily on sleeper cells and independent modules, comprising mainly of Bengali speaking entities, mostly Bangladeshi and a sizable number of Indian nationals. This compartmentalised model ensures better survivability in case a module gets dismantled by security and intelligence agencies.
A Withering Force or an Underlying Threat?
The recent spate of arrests of senior JMB militants followed reports quoting the intelligence agencies of the intent of the Bangladeshi group to establish permanent basing facilities and training grounds along the porous India- Bangladesh border. The topography of the region coupled with established cross border smuggling routes are thus likely to facilitate such a strategy given credence to the intelligence input.
Moreover, recurrent reports also hints at the group’s inclination towards expansion in southern India. This view is bolstered by the fact that a sizable number of arrests, including the July arrest of Rehman as well as those of two facilitators from Malappuram in Kerala and Bengaluru on February 3 and 20 respectively are a case in point. The aforementioned trends thus indicate that the group has more or less succeed in establishing an operational network, primarily comprising of sleeper cells and a decent logistical base to facilitate operations in the country.
Additionally, unconfirmed reports also hinted towards a stark increase in the operational sophistication of IED’s assembled as well as propaganda literature by this group as compared to the preceding years. This can primarily be attributed to the increased availability of IED making know-how as well as propaganda literature, disseminated by both Islamic State (IS) as well as Al Qaeda (AQ) in local languages, including Bengali. The known technological inclination of the senior cadres of the JMB and JMI may have facilitated the surge in its operational capabilities. The group also seeks to tide over the prevailing political developments in the country like the abrogation of Article 370 from Kashmir which has been increasingly used as a rallying point by both the JMB and JMI through their media channels. The recurrent feeds of mob lynching of minority communities disiminated by ‘selective persecution monitoring channels’ is also being increasingly used to fuel the propoganda machinery in multiple Indian languages.
Finally, most of the members of arrested modules so far, including the Dhulian and Malda module (which was known to have been in advanced stages of launching an IED attacks in the state of West Bengal) indicates that despite the arrests of senior cadres, at least some of the critical technical know-how may have been potentially passed on to the ground operatives. This, coupled with the continued presence of a sizable support base spread across the country is likely to facilitate the sustenance of the group thereby ensuring the continued underlying threat it poses.