Dhaka: A Saudi Arabia-born Bangladeshi, who returned to the country after fighting for the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, has been arrested by the counter-terrorism police for alleged plans to establish a caliphate in the Muslim-majority country.
Born in Saudi Arabia to a Bangladeshi father and a Pakistani mother, 33-year-old Motaj Abdul Majid Kafiluddin Bepari was arrested by Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit near a mosque in Dhaka’s Uttara neighbourhood on May 5, the Dhaka Tribune reported.
According to the first information report (FIR) of the case recorded under Anti-Terrorism Act with Uttara (West) police station, Motaj and five or six unnamed people were accused for planning sabotage with different militant organisations to establish caliphate by displacing the government.
Dhaka launched a major crackdown against extremists following an attack by local outfit New Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on a cafe in the capital in 2016 that killed 22 people, including an Indian and 17 other foreigners.
Confirming the arrest on Wednesday, CTTC Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan said interrogation is underway to know his motive.
Police also seized a passport, a Saudi Arabian ID card, Saudi driving licence, an iPhone, and Bangla translations of several essays on caliphate in Bangladesh from Motaj’s possession, the daily reported.
Motaj took a Bangladeshi passport in 2014 from the Bangladesh embassy in Saudi Arabia and then went to Turkey in 2016 using it, the FIR stated.
He was influenced by the IS ideology and was trying to get in touch with the terror group, after which he attempted to enter into Syria several times, but failed. Later in 2017, he tried to enter Syria via Egypt and Turkey from Saudi Arabia, but failed again.
Finally in 2018, Motaj succeeded, but it was too late, as the IS regime had been ousted from Syria by then.
After this, he fled to Turkey where his plan was to flee to any European country via Greece. But as Turkish police began a drive against terrorists, Motaj decided to return to Bangladesh and arrived in Dhaka.
According to the case files, police was aware of his entry and was tracking his movements to arrest him.
Citing findings from the primary inquiry, the FIR said Motaj believed in the ideology of banned militant outfit New JMB.
No police official agreed to publicly comment on Motaj’s matter. However, CTTC chief and Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam recently said Bangladeshis returning home after joining IS would face legal action.
He also said a section of youths have been going to join IS since late 2014. They suspect some aspiring militants were arrested and some were killed. But he acknowledged the lack of statistics regarding the matter.
If they want to return home now, they have no alternative but to come by air. They need passports. But people who left the country in 2014 no longer have valid passports. If anybody wants to return, they will have to apply for a travel pass, Monirul said.