Police: Momena was in contact with foreign fighters in Syria

by Nuruzzaman Labu
Momena Shoma, the woman who was arrested in Australia last week after stabbing a man, had been in contact with several Bangladeshi Islamic State fighters in Syria, says Counter-terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam. Monirul said Shoma had applied for a Turkish visa after securing admission at a Turkish university, but it had been denied by the embassy in Dhaka. At the time, many Bangladeshis were being denied visas to Turkey for fear they would seek entry to the Syrian battlefield, as thousands of IS supporters had done. Then she went to Australia securing a scholarship from a university and launched an IS inspired “lone wolf” attack in Melbourne. Monirul Islam said Shoma had struck up a relationship with Nazibullah Ansari, a Bangladeshi national fighting in Syria. Shoma wanted to marry Nazibullah, but her family refused to allow the two to marry.

The information came forth during the interrogation of Momena’s younger sister Asmaul Hosna Sumona and their father, Monirul said. In 2016, law enforcement agencies had included Nazibullah’s name on the first list of the 10 missing youths suspected to be involved with militancy. A CTTC official said Momena also had contact with another Bangladeshi militant, Gazi Sohan. Gazi introduced her to Nazibullah in 2014, when she was studying English language and Literature at North South University (NSU). Gazi Sohan went to Syria to fight for Islamic State militants on December 11, 2014 but came back to Dhaka on May next year. He has been held in the custody since his return. CTTC unit chief said: “We had detained many radicalized students in 2014. Momena maybe had contact with some of them. We are investigating this matter closely.” CTTC officials are contacting the Australian police to find if Momena had any other accomplices. In this context, a CTTC unit official said Momena used to pray at the NSU mosque with a few others ladies. CTTC has identified at least four and further investigations are underway about their activities.

However, Momena’s younger sister Asmaul Husna said that before going to Australia, her sister used to visit several places in Bashundhara area. Officials are trying to identify those places. Both sisters have been radicalized through social media, according to law enforcement agencies. Momena Shoma stabbed an Australian national with a knife just nine days after her arrival in Melbourne. She had even previously informed her younger sister Asma about the attack. Three days after Momena was arrested on February 9, a CTTC team went to her family’s home in Kafrul, Dhaka for investigation, only to have one of their officers allegedly stabbed by Asmaul. CTTC later arrested Asmaul, who is currently on a five-day remand.

This article was first published on banglatribune.com

Published  February 16th, 2018

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