‘Arrested ULFA leader was picked up by Bangladesh police earlier’

Sunday, July 18, 2010

DHAKA - Top Indian militant Ranjan Chowdhury of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had assumed a Muslim name, Masud Chowdhury, in Bangladesh and had been picked up by Bangladesh police six weeks ago, said a media report here Sunday a day after his arrest was announced.

Chowdhury had also married a local girl, a common trait among Indian militants who cross the border into Bangladesh to evade arrest.

Chowdhury was arrested and paraded before the media here Saturday. According to The New Nation, he “is probably the same Masud Ranjan Chowdhury” picked up by the police six weeks ago. He was arrested by plainclothes policemen June 6 from Rumpa Clinic in Mymensingh town where he was admitted after being injured.

At that time, police and the para-military Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) had denied the arrest, the paper said. But his wife Sabitri Sangma confirmed the arrest to media persons.

Unnamed sources told the newspaper that Chowdhury assumed the name, Masud Chowdhury, when he used to come out of the tribal areas of the border.

ULFA’s military wing chief Paresh Barua, believed to be in Bangladesh, has also married a Bangladeshi girl and goes by the name Zaman.

Chowdhury’s arrest was the first “official announcement” made by Bangladesh authorities of the nabbing of an Indian militant leader, New Age newspaper said.

Bangladesh authorities say Chowdhury has been heading violent operations from Bangladeshi soil since last December’s detention of the top brass of the ULFA.

Chowdhury, alias Major Ranjan, 46, was caught along with his Bangladeshi aide Pradip Marak, 57, from his hideout at Lakshmipur village in Bhairab in northeastern Bangladesh.

Chowdhury is a former general secretary of the Dhubri district unit of ULFA. The RAB recovered a pistol, a revolver, four handmade bombs and bomb-making material from the hideout.

Last December, the Bangladesh authorities facilitated the arrest of ULFA chief Arabinda Rajkhowa, Raju Barua and eight others of the group.

India and Bangladesh have stepped up cooperation in handling crime, militancy and terrorism since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office in January last year.

The Daily Star newspaper Sunday quoted chief of RAB Intelligence Wing Lt Col Ziaul Ahsan as saying: “ULFA activities in India are apparently regulated by its leaders and operatives who have taken shelter in Bangladesh. Among them, Ranjan Chowdhury is now the chief as the other top leaders of the separatist group are in jails.”

Ziaul Ahsan said RAB is trying to locate the organisation’s arsenal in the country.

RAB chief Major General Hasan Mahmud Khandaker said: “We are trying to find out whether ULFA has any links with local militant outfits or has any military wing here. We are also trying to ascertain how many ULFA leaders and operatives are living here.”

Commander Mohammad Sohail, director of RAB legal and media wing, said Chowdhury married a Bangladeshi and started living at Gazni village of Jhinaigati upazila in Sherpur since 1997. He has been making frequent trips to India.

Chowdhury illegally entered the country through Kurigram district in September 1997 to meet ULFA military wing chief Paresh Barua in Dhaka, said commander Sohail.

In 1995, Indian law enforcers arrested Chowdhury on his way back to India from Bhutan after his meeting with ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia, who has been convicted in several cases and is now in jail in Bangladesh since 1997.

Filed under: Terrorism

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