The district administration of Dhaka yesterday sealed both the Dhanmondi and Gulshan branches of Lakehead Grammar School, shutting all its activities on allegations of patronising militancy, inspiring extremist views and helping form militant outfits.
Two teams led by two executive magistrates conducted raids at the campuses of the English medium school in the evening as ordered by the deputy commissioner, said Sharif Rayhan Kabir, ADC (education and ICT) of Dhaka.
Elias Mehedi, one of the magistrates, said the officials sealed the branches after driving out all the staff.
Later, the school property was handed over to the Lakehead’s admin officer, who gave an undertaking that all activities of the school will remain suspended for an indefinite period, told Elias.
Asif Ishtiaq, head of the school administration, said the management will sit today to decide about filing a writ petition against the closure of the school and how it can resume activities.
The education ministry ordered the Dhaka DC on Sunday to take measures to shut the school, also for carrying out activities against the nation.
Salma Jahan, joint secretary of secondary and higher secondary education, in the order said the school had no government permission.
Earlier on January 23, the ministry sent a letter to the home ministry requesting an investigation into Lakehead’s alleged terror links.
The school was co-founded in 2000 by Rizwan Haroon, who has been dubbed as a top militant in some media reports, and Jenifer Ahmed, wife of alleged Hizb ut-Tahrir coordinator and Dhaka University teacher Syed Golam Mowla.
Though “listed as a militant suspect by the home ministry”, Rizwan sneaked into the country from the UK dodging immigration police at the airport in Dhaka, the reports said in May this year, based on information from an intelligence agency.
Sources in the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police at the time, however, said they did not have any such information about Rizwan and that he was not wanted in any of their cases.
According to school insiders and official sources, a number of wanted militants linked with outfits like “Neo JMB”, al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula and Hizb ut-Tahrir worked at the school as teachers.
Maj (retd) Jahidul Islam, military commander of “Neo JMB”, worked at Lakehead in December 2015. He, however, quit his job as its general manager (admin) on March 7 last year, added the sources.
Jahid, killed in a police raid in the capital’s Rupnagar on September 2 last year, allegedly had trained the militants who took part in the Gulshan café attack on July 1 last year.
Moniruzzaman Masud, a math teacher at Lakehead, was arrested along with Golam Mowla and several other Hizb ut-Tahrir men in September 2008 in Rajshahi while distributing leaflets calling for establishing a “caliphate” dethroning the then government.
Besides, Tehzeeb and Rizwan Sharif, both wanted by police for suspected militancy links, happened to be teachers at Lakehead.
According to international media reports, Tehzeeb and his brother Rajib Karim and Rizwan Sharif had contacted radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, a key figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, saying they wanted to join jihad overseas.
Talking to a press, Tehzeeb’s father, however, denied the allegation.
A few years back, Rizwan Haroon and his family got the ownership of Lakehead. In March this year, RM Group Limited, a company that supplies construction equipment and materials, purchased the school.
Khaled Matin, managing director of RM Group, yesterday told this newspaper that they purchased Lakehead without knowing that there had been allegations against the management of involvement in militancy.
He claimed to have sacked 12 teachers facing such allegations, and brought changes in the entire management. The school now has no terror connection and he welcomed the ministry investigation, he added.
After his two kids were admitted to Lakehead, Khaleda said, he started to like the school for its “Islamic environment” and later decided to buy it.
The school has around 1,100 students and 180 teachers. Monthly tuition fees for each student range from Tk 10,000 to Tk 15,000.
Visiting the Dhanmondi and Gulshan campuses around noon yesterday, this correspondent saw some guardians waiting for their children.
“Where will my son go at this time of the year?” said a guardian, worried following the ministry order.
Fearing disruption in their children’s education, many parents contacted the school office and wanted to know what will happen next.
Talking to this correspondent at its Dhanmondi branch, a guardian seeking anonymity said she chose the institution since it is “different” from the other schools.
“The curriculum is the same like that of other English medium schools. But children here learns religious etiquettes,” she said.