The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has busted a makeshift camp used for training ‘religious extremists’ in Chittagong’s remote Banshkhali hills.
RAB officials say they found three AK-22 rifles, six revolvers, a pistol and three LGs from the camp, which seemed to have a firing range for weapons training.
An AK-22 “Trainer” is a semi-automatic rifle loosely based upon the AK-47 in its design, and chambered in .22 long rifle calibre. It is used for training.
The camp operated under cover of a livestock and poultry farm on the Lotmoni Hill at Sadhanpur Union, according to Union Parishad Chairman Samiruddin.
RAB’s Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud said they had come to know of the camp’s existence by interrogating 12 suspected militants, who were arrested from Hathazari on Feb 19.
He said RAB squads started conducting a raid since Saturday afternoon.Five people have been arrested so far, according to the RAB director.
They are Aminul Islam, Abdul Khaleque, Habibur Rahman, Amir Hossain and Mobashwer Hossain, all aged between 20 and 22.The camp is situated about four kilometres off the Sadhanpur main road.The UP chairman said locals stopped visiting the hill after it was declared a Reserved Forest in 2011.
According to Samiruddin, one Maulana Mobarak came from Sanua of Banshkhali after the 1991 cyclone and settled there.
He bought some land and set up a livestock and poultry farm with Maulana Aziz.
RAB Director Mahmud said Islamist religious militants were regularly trained in a big hillock behind the farm.
“Boys from poor families were brought here and taught Arabic and Islamic theology. They were also shown videos of attacks on Muslims in different countries to motivate them to become militants to fight for the ‘cause of Islam’,” he said.
“They were also shown videos of speeches by terrorist leaders like Osama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri and successful terrorist operations by Islamist radicals,” he said.They were given weapons training, guerrilla tactics and even how to hijack planes, he added.
Locals said they often heard sounds of firing at night from the Banskhali hills but thought crackers were being used to chase away elephants.
A RAB official, requesting anonymity, said, “The trainers brought 10 to 12 boys blindfolded at a time through the Kanchana-Chhankhola bypass at Satkania.”The locals said they did not see any other people in that area other than Maulana Mobarak.
The suspected kingpin, Mobarak, however has not yet been arrested, RAB officials said. RAB-7’s Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel Miftauddin Choudhury said weapons had been cached in drums dug into the ground in this camp.
Even some uniforms were found in the cache.After the Hathazari arrests, these militants were trying to regroup in Banskhali camp, said RAB assistant director ASP Sohel Mahmud.