Terror group formed during void deck meeting

Four Bangladeshis convicted of financing terrorism; court hears how group took shape over several meetings

Armoured vehicles taking the Bangladeshi suspects to court yesterday. Four of six men charged last Friday pleaded guilty to financing terrorism. The other two are claiming trial.
Armoured vehicles taking the Bangladeshi suspects to court yesterday. Four of six men charged last Friday pleaded guilty to financing terrorism. The other two are claiming trial. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

It was at a void deck in Sembawang that the group which came to be known as the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB) began in January.

Its leader, Bangladeshi draftsman Rahman Mizanur, 31, met three of his countrymen - Miah Rubel, 26; Zzaman Daulat, 34; and Sohag Ibrahim, 27 - and discussed the arrests late last year of 27 of their compatriots who were found to be radicalised. Were there any other militant groups here, Rahman asked. It was not known what the replies were.

The four then swore an oath to follow Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi until their deaths.

This account was read to the court yesterday shortly before Rahman, who stood cuffed and shackled in the dock, was convicted of financing terrorism.

He was among four Bangladeshi workers convicted yesterday - the others are Miah; Md Jabath Kysar Haje Norul Islam Sowdagar, 31; and Sohel Hawlader Ismail Hawlader, 29. They had earlier pleaded guilty.

They were part of a group of six Bangladeshis charged last Friday under the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act, for providing or collecting money to fund terrorist acts in their home country.

Miah and Jabath were also accused of possessing money for these terrorist purposes.

The remaining two men - Zzaman Daulat, 34, and Mamun Leakot Ali, 29 - have denied the charges. A pre-trial conference for them has been set for June 9.

The six men are part of a group of eight workers in the construction and marine industries detained under the Internal Security Act in April. The other detainees are Sohag and Islam Shariful, 27.

The court heard yesterday that Rahman was radicalised in Bangladesh last April, after meeting a man there - identified as Jahangir Alam - who gave him ISIS-related documents. Rahman's dream was to be an ISIS fighter, but he failed thrice to get a visa to travel to Turkey and Algeria. He then came to Singapore to work last December.

After the January meeting in Sembawang, there were six more meetings before Rahman was arrested on March 29, the court heard.

During these meetings, the ISB took shape and other members were recruited - including Hossain Shamim, who has since left Singapore and not been arrested.

The court heard that the men wanted to wage "an armed jihad", and to find and kill non-believers when they returned to Bangladesh.

They drew up a list of targets - including the police, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists - and agreed to begin in Bangladesh's northern Panchagarh district.

Money was needed to buy food, firearms and knives for the campaign, so the members agreed they would give part of their salary to the cause, said the prosecution.

To avoid detection, Rahman discussed using fake names at a March meeting, and shared a five-page document on counter-surveillance methods, court documents showed.

Each man had a clear role. They were led by Rahman, with Mamun as the group's deputy leader. Miah was in the financial council, while Sohag handled its legal matters.

Jabath and Islam were both in the media council, while Zzaman and Sohel were in the group's security and fighter councils respectively.

Court documents also showed that ISB had raised $1,360.

Yesterday, the prosecution sought a three-week adjournment to prepare submissions for sentencing, adding that it would be pressing for a deterrent sentence.

The four convicted men will next appear in court on June 21.

The prosecution said the six accused, who are unrepresented, did not say if they wanted legal counsel.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline Terror group formed during void deck meeting. Subscribe