The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on Friday arrested six members of the banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam during separate drives in Dhaka, Satkhira and Gazipur.
"The arrested militants were planning a lone wolf attack, targeting bloggers, writers and media personalities. They had gathered in the capital to execute their plan," said RAB 4 Commanding Officer Mozammel Haque.
He made the disclosure at a press conference at the RAB media centre in Karwan Bazar on Saturday.
Giving more details, Mozammel said, "They [militants] use protective apps [encrypted applications] for internal communication, which is difficult for the law enforces to track down. Ansar al-Islam members only gather before executing a big plan and use a cut-out system [splinter cells] to avoid law enforcers' surveillance.
"Several RAB intelligence teams are working undercover in militant organizations. Recently, our intelligence team received information about a group of Ansar al-Islam members gathering in Uttara, Dhaka to plan a lone wolf attack."
The RAB commanding officer continued, "After receiving the information, a RAB team conducted a drive in Uttara and arrested four members of the militant outfit. The arrestees later revealed the names of two other associates after primary interrogation.
"RAB then detained two more militants on separate drives in Gazipur and Satkhira's Shyamnagar area."
The arrestees are: Sagor alias Salman Muktadir, 21; Ulias Howlader alias Khattar, 32; Ekramul Islam alias Amir Hamza, 21; Amir Hossain alias Tawhidi Janotar Artonat, 26; Shipon Mir alias Abdur Rob, 33; and Oliullah alias Abdur Rahman, 25.
RAB also seized books that instigate terrorism, digital devices, mobile phones and laptops during the raids.
Responding to queries, Mozammel Haque further said, "This militant group has always opposed democracy. They want to dismantle the democratic system in Bangladesh and establish a Khilafat. Ansar al-Islam is currently engaged in two types of activities.
"Firstly, they are trying to recruit members by motivating the youths in schools, colleges and universities through the internet. Secondly, they are planning to strategically kill those who oppose religion-based politics.
He added that Ansar Al Islam no longer believes Khilafat can be established by killing random people.
The RAB commanding officer said, "We cannot say anything about the planned attack, because it will create panic among the people.
"Only when they plan something big, the members gather to execute it."
Adding that the arrested suspects did not confess to committing any previous attacks, Mozammel Haque said, "They [arrestees] still believe that killing bloggers is legitimised in Islam.
"We will produce them before a court and take them on remand for further interrogation regarding their plans. We will reveal more information later."
According to RAB sources, arrestees Abdur Rahman and Amir Hamza were chief organisers of Dhaka and Khulna districts. Amir Hamza is the IT expert of Ansar al-Islam, who maintained a strong countrywide online network among members of the organisation.
Abdur Rahman is a madrasah teacher. The six members got involved with the Ansar al-Islam after becoming radicalised by watching videos of Jashim Uddin Rahmani – former chief of the outfit when it was known as the Ansarullah Bangla Team.