Interview/ Hasanul Haq Inu, information minister, Bangladesh
Who was behind the gruesome attack in Gulshan?
Our investigation has revealed that the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh was the mastermind. Its youth wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, was behind the merciless killings.
Have you identified the gang?
Yes. They are mostly residents of Dhaka and belong to respectable and educated families. They had all left home about a year ago. We are assessing whether or not they were internationally trained. However, a small gang of six people did not do it. There is a big group, which we are trying to locate.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Our investigation has revealed it was the JMB. But, we must admit it was encouraged by what Islamic State has been doing globally. The JMB applied the same methods. The killers entered the spot with firearms, but killed people with knives, very brutally. However, we have not found that Islamic State operated from either Syria or Iraq or planned the attack.
Does the JMB have links with Islamic State?
We must admit that the JMB has changed over the years. It is becoming more brutal day by day. Before this incident, for the past one year, about 60 people were killed [in terror attacks], either by the JMB or by another homegrown terror outfit, the Ansarullah Bangla Team. Every case has been ascertained but we did not find Islamic State's involvement. But, we are not ruling out anything. We will investigate further.
It is said that the JMB has become the Islamic State of Bangladesh.
We are investigating that. In fact, we were confused when the first murder took place in Bangladesh in the name of Islamic State. Well, if the JMB wants to change its name to Islamic State, I have nothing to say. Our stand would be the same—zero tolerance. We will crack them, whether it is the JMB, Al Qaeda or IS.
Does the JMB have any links with Middle East terror groups like Al Qaeda?
Of course it has. It all started in 2000 when the JMB leadership went to Pakistan. They then travelled to Afghanistan and, at Jalalabad, met Osama Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri. The batch was led by Mufti Hannan, who is in jail now and facing the gallows for planning to kill our prime minister [Sheikh Hasina] when she was leader of opposition. After they returned, a second batch went to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2004. Both groups were trained by Al Qaeda and Taliban militia, and the leaders were brainwashed. Even today, many the JMB leaders are based in Pakistan.
Don’t you feel the trial of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for their crimes during the 1971 war has incited the terrorist groups? Even two rival groups—Islami Chhatra Shibir and Ansarullah Bangla Team—have joined hands.
I don't know about the terror groups, but the people are happy with it [the trials]. You cannot imagine how our supreme leader's family was almost eliminated. Liberal people were tortured and killed in Bangladesh. We could not forget those days. But yes, I also admit the Jamaat-e-Islami is a political wing of the JMB and an ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. So, naturally, they have been hit badly.
Is the prime minister’s life under threat?
No. She is secure. Yes, she has faced several assassination attempts. Even today, the JMB is plotting to kill her. But, people are with us. Our prime minister has worked hard to upgrade the Bangladesh army. We are also getting support from the Indian government.
Where are the top leaders of the JMB?
We finished most of those based in Bangladesh. Some are still in our jails, waiting for conviction. But a good number of leaders are abroad, including in Pakistan and the Middle East. We have also alerted many European countries regarding this.