Bangladesh: How a ramp model turns militant commander, burns all photos after change of heart

‘Mehedi was in charge of financing, recruiting, organising migrations and accepting the swearing in of new recruits even before the Gulshan attack’

Ramp model-turned-militant commander burned all his photos after turning religious
Imam Mehedi Hasan, commander of New JMB’s Kutni Brigade, flanked by RAB members on Thursday September 1, 2017 RAB

Imam Mehedi Hasan, a BBA graduate from Darul Ihsan University, was very passionate about modelling and becoming a catwalk model, and he did somewhat achieve that dream for a while.

But something in him had changed right before he reportedly joined a new faction of the banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) two years ago, a shadowy matter on which even his family has failed to shed much light.

“When he started modelling during his studies, our family had discouraged it. He destroyed his modelling portfolio and all photos after quitting that profession and becoming religious,” the former ramp model’s elder brother, Waliur Alam, told the Dhaka Tribune.

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Mehedi from a house in Dhaka’s South Banasree in the early hours of Thursday over his alleged connection to New JMB.

Two laptops, a mobile phone, a passport, and various militancy related pamphlets were also seized.

RAB claims that New JMB’s Sarwar-Tamim faction has two operating squads: Badr Brigade; and ad-Dar-e-Kutni Brigade, of which Mehedi is a commander.

Mehedi’s family, however, have claimed the the 29-year-old IT expert – who also goes by the name Abu Jibril – went missing on May 4. They filed a general diary (GD) at Khilgaon police station over his disappearance.

On Thursday, a Dhaka court remanded Mehedi into RAB custody for four days for interrogation. At an earlier press briefing, RAB-3 Commanding Officer Lt Col Tuhin Mohammad Masud said Mehedi had modelled for several years before joining New JMB in 2015.

“Mehedi had been trying his luck in different types of small businesses after quitting the catwalk but at some point, he got involved with the militants,” said Lt Col Tuhin.

“He hasn’t started spilling all the New JMB secrets yet, but he has admitted during preliminary questioning that he has been involved with the New JMB’s Sarwar-Tamim group since 2015.”

According to RAB, Mehedi used to maintain direct communication with the militant group’s chief and key financier, Sarwar Jahan, who also went by the names Abdur Rahman and Abdullah Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif.

Sarwar died after jumping from a five-storey building in Ashulia during a raid on October 8, 2016.

Lt Col Tuhin told reporters that they have also found proof of Mehedi’s communication with some of the militants who killed 22 people at Gulshan’s Holy Artisan Bakery on July 1 last year, and also with some of the nine who were killed during a special drive of security forces at a hideout at Kallyanpur.

“Mehedi was in charge of financing, recruiting, organising migrations and accepting the swearing in of new recruits even before the Gulshan attack,” said the RAB commander.

“We know that he has also been collecting firearms and supplying them to the militants using different ways. But he is yet to confess.”

Lt Col Tuhin told Thursday’s press briefing that the nationwide hunt for militants following the attack on July 1, 2016, had greatly weakened Badr Brigade. Kutni Brigade tried to make up for the losses by bolstering their ranks with new recruits.

According to the RAB chief, Mehedi is fluent in written and spoken English. “He also knows how to motivate new recruits. He would record the swearing in of new recruits and send the videos to their media channels for promotion and to interested parties to appeal for donations,” he said.

Mehedi is also reported to have organised the internal marriages within the militant group, and is also accused in a number of cases filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act, said Lt Col Tuhin.

Meanwhile, Waliur told the Dhaka Tribune that Mehedi had left their Mohakhali home on the evening of May 4 and had been traceless since.

“We had contacted police first and filed the GD. Then we went to RAB but they didn’t find him or anything about his whereabouts. Now they’ve arrested him out of nowhere,” he said.

When asked about Mehedi’s alleged militant activities, Waliur claimed that they did not know anything about that. He added that Mehedi is married and his wife is pregnant with their child.

This article was first published on Dhaka Tribune



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