GROWING FANATICISM & EXTREMISM IN BANGLADESH: SHADES OF THE TALIBAN
FEBRUARY 13, 2005
NOTE: THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS DISTURBING IMAGES
“We are for Osama, we are for the Talibans and we will be in Government in year 2000 through an Islamic Revolution”.
- Fazlul Haq Amini, 08 March 1999 in a public meeting in Dhaka
(Mr. Amini is now a Member of Parliament of the Ruling Four Party Alliance)
"The choice of Kibria as the target should not be lost on anybody. His was one of the staunchest voices for secularism and against extremism, terrorism and the increasing use of religion in our politics. His was one of the early warning voices against Taliban penetration into our national politics."
- Mahfuz Anam, Editor, Daily Star in a Commentary on January 29, 2005 after the assassination of Mr. Shah AMS Kibria MP
Definition of Terrorism : "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience".
- Patterns of Global Terrorism : 2001
US Department of State
"Charred fate of religious minorities" : Banshkhali incident of 19 November 2003
"Imam of Ahmaddiya Mosque killed on 31 October 2003”
"Carnage at Sylhet" 21 May 2004
"Victims of Torture" 31 May 2004
"Bludgeoned to death & thereafter dangled from a tree" 20 May 2004
Table of contents
The Context .................................................................................. ............ 1
Build up of Terrorism by and under BNP-Jamat Alliance....... ......... 10
1) Engineering of the Electoral Process ..................................... ...13
2) Assassination Of Members Of Parliament ............................ ......17
One by One Opposition leaders are being killed ....................... ........22
3) Killing of progressive intellectuals & free thinkers .............. .....24
4) Attacks on media ..................................................................... ......... 27
5) Persecution of religious minorities ........................................ ....33
6) Assassination attempts on Sheikh Hasina ............................ ....35
Unabated smuggling of Arms and explosives .......................... ...... 40
Emergence of extremist groups under patronage
of ruling BNP-JAMAAT alliance .. .......43
Bangla Bhai Syndrome .............................................................. ...45
Dinajpur Bomb Blasts ............................................................... ......... 58
New Extremist Outfit Declares Itself ....................................... .... .. 60
“Religious Extremists Dare the Government:
Time to Shed Ostrich-Syndrome” ........................................... ...........64
Jamatul Mujahidin in Joypurhat ............................................ ........... 67
Mindless Cruelty At Urs At Hazrat Shah Jalal (Sm) Dargah ..........71
The Carnage in May 2004 ........................................................ ........... 71
Sylhet: An experiment Laboratory for Terrorists ................ ........... 72
1 Growing fanaticism & extremism in Bangladesh : Shades of the Taliban
Growing Extremism & Fanatism in Bangladesh: Shades of The Taliban
The Constitution of Bangladesh following Independence in 1971 enshrined secularism as one of its main pillars and did not allow religion based politics. However, following the assassination of Bangladesh's Founding Father Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 15, 1975, an amendment to the constitution allowed for religion based politics.
The current trend and pattern of destabilization in Bangladesh and growing religious extremism is a direct outcome of this amendment and since 1999 and well before international terrorism made its first hits, it is being systematically attempted.
Bangladesh witnessed its first serious bomb attack when time bombs were exploded on 7th March 1999 at the conference of Udichi (a folk-drama group), a well-reputed progressive cultural organization.
July 20th 2000 - a powerful bomb was planted at Kotalipara, Gopalganj to assassinate the then Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. It is no coincidence that prior to the above, there were various public statements made by leaders of radical Islamic parties such as Mr. Fazlul Haq Amini (now an Alliance MP), who declared in a public meeting in Dhaka on March 8th 1999: “We are for Osama, we are for the Talibans and we will be in Government in year 2000 through an Islamic Revolution”.
Then came a series of bomb explosions all over the country – and this trend is now manifesting itself with increased frequency as the time between such acts of terrorism is being shortened - killing 162 people and injuring more than seventeen hundred, many permanently maimed for life – Annex III. The last incident is the grenade attack in Hobigonj that took the life of yet another Awami League Member of Parliament and former Finance Minister, Mr. Shah AMS Kibria on 27th January 2005.
After the assumption of power by BNP-Jamat Alliance in October 2001 these acts of terrorism have become bolder and deadly, more systematic and highly sophisticated.
"Patterns of Global Terrorism: 2001" report defines terrorism as "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience".
The current situation in Bangladesh clearly fits this pattern and definition. The October 2001 parliamentary elections (the fairness and neutrality of which has been repeatedly questioned by the Awami League) witnessed a transfer of power from the secular Awami League (AL) to an Alliance led by the rightist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and religion based Jamaat-e-Islam. The AL however continues to be the single largest party having polled 41% of the popular vote. The selective and deliberate targeting of Awami League and like-minded secular and progressive forces, cultural organisations, religious minority groups and the places of entertainment such as movie/cinema halls or local fairs indicates a clear pattern that clearly unmasks the identity of perpetrators of such crimes and their ideology (Fazlul Haq Amini, Alliance MP).
It is also no coincidence that BNP or Jamaat programmes/functions/occasions have never been targeted or attacked by the growing terrorism in Bangladesh.
The then AL Government, during whose tenure some of the above explosions took place (including one in Kotalipara, Gopalgonj and one in its own office in Narayanganj), had initiated investigation and had also sought assistance of explosive specialists from USA.
In the Jessore Udichi bomb explosion case, for instance, after a detailed investigation the charge sheet was submitted naming amongst other accused persons, a current Minister in the ruling Alliance.
This process though has now been reversed and negated by the present Government, allowing the real perpetrators to go free. We believe a careful review and consideration of the investigations undertaken during the previous Awami League term will yield significant insights and perhaps even clues on the current spate of bombings and assassinations.
Explosive experts from the USA visited Bangladesh and examined the 76-kilo bomb found in Kotalipara, Gopalganj.
Records of their investigations may still be available with the United States authorities and the Bangladesh Government should also have information on this. Since the BNP-Jamaat Alliance formed Government following the elections of October 1, 2001, there has been a marked increase in bomb explosions as well as “accidental” discovery of huge cache of arms and ammunition, the most recent of which was in Chittagong on 01 April 2004 (10 truck-load of arms and explosives).
Rather than conduct a thorough and focused investigation looking at all technical and other aspects and exploring links and behavioural patterns, the Prime Minister herself has blocked any neutral investigation by stating publicly, and also as a matter of record in the Parliament, that the Opposition Awami League is responsible for all such bomb explosions (including those during Awami League’s term in office) as well as all arms and ammunitions caches discovered.
Needless to mention, the Government agencies have not been able to find clues to the incidents. In case of the Mymensingh cinema blasts for instance, the Prime Minister within 48 hours of the explosions unequivocally held the Opposition Awami League responsible, having herself formed a one member Judicial Probe Commission a day earlier.
This Commission however contradicted the Prime Minister’s above publicly stated view and absolved the Awami League of any involvement in the Mymensingh bomb explosions.
The following five further instances of bomb attacks and explosions over the past two months alone visibly demonstrate how widespread and dangerous the situation in Bangladesh is becoming, thanks to growing radicalism and extremism which is unexceptionally targeting secular forces and cultural symbols.
Narayangonj - Aftermath of the Bomb attack in AL Office “Udichi” Bomb Blast
February 12, 2005
1. 3 Brac staff hurt in twin bomb blasts
Our Correspondent, Gaibandha
Three Brac employees were injured in two powerful bomb blasts at Brac office, Mohimaganj in Gaibandha district on Thursday night. As the first bomb exploded on the tin-shed roof, the employees rushed to the main gate. Fifteen minutes later, another bomb exploded, injuring Faridul, Swapan Kumar and Shaheen. They were rushed to a local clinic. "I don't know why the Brac office was targeted by the terrorists," said Motlubur Hossain, manager of the office.
Locals said two motorcycle riders threw the bombs and just after explosion of the first bomb, they managed to escape at 9:00pm.
Local people suspect activists of Jamaat-ul-Mujaheedin, an extremist outfit active in Shaghata and surrounding areas might be involved in the incident.
Police recovered abandoned batteries used in the bomb blasts from the spot. On December 18 last year a bomb blast on a drama stage adjacent to the Brac office injured ten people.
Twenty-one people were injured in bomb blasts on a Jatra (folk drama) stage at Takier Bazar in Palashbari upazila on December 25, 2004.
Source: The Daily Star
2. Thursday, January 13, 2005
10 hurt in bomb blast at drama festival
At least 10 people were injured, two of them critically, in bomb explosions at a drama festival at Chakpara village in Sadar upazila in the early hours yesterday. Police and witnesses said two bombs exploded at the festival at about 12:30am when a drama was being staged.
Two of the injured, Majibur, 25, and Masud Miah, 22, were admitted to the Sadar Hospital in a critical condition. Five other injured, Saidul, 16, Nasir, 10, Hossain, 25, Bishnu, 40, Shukur Ali and Shanti Begum, 8, were given first aid at the hospital.
Police arrested two persons--Sagar, 30, of Chakpara and Azizul, 19, of Ganaibarua villages--after the
Source: The Daily Star
Mon. December 27, 2004
3. 21 hurt in Jatra bomb blast in Gaibandha
Our Correspondent, Gaibandha
At least 21 people were injured, 10 of them critically, when three bombs went off in a crowd that gathered to enjoy Jatra (open-air drama) at Harinathpur in Palashbari upazila at around midnight Saturday.
Three bombs exploded on the spot while locals recovered another one unexploded. Of the injured, five were rushed to Gaibandha General Hospital with severe burn injuries and their condition was reportedly grave.
Witnesses said when the generator suddenly ceased to operate at around 12 o'clock on Saturday night,
some men threw four powerful bombs aiming at the stage. Moments later, three of the bombs exploded
leaving the place in an absolute mayhem.
About a thousand people crowded under a canopy decorated for the jatra. Shakhina Opera has been performing there for the last three days. "Soon after the lights had gone off, a bomb fell right in front of me and exploded," said Mozammel Huq, 50, of village Marodateya under Palashbari. With severe burns in the face, he was undergoing treatment at Gaibandha General Hospital.
Another victim, Abdur Rouf, 30, of Gajaria under Fulchari upazila, said, "I got scared to death as I heard the bang and after a while I found the entire place engulfed in flames."
Superintendent of Police in Gaibandha said local union parishad (UP) member and secretary of union unit of BNP had arranged the show without permission of the district administration. Officer-in-Charge of Palashbari Police Station Fazlul Huq said the bombs used were probably made locally.
Source: The Daily Star
Sat. December 25, 2004
4. Bomb goes off at Sylhet Mohila AL meet
District president, secretary, 3 other leaders and 3 activists injured
Staff Correspondent, Sylhet
President of district Mohila Awami League (AL) and former lawmaker Syeda Zebunnesa Haque,General Secretary Ruby Fatema Islam, and six other leaders and activists were injured as a powerful bomb went off yesterday afternoon at a meeting of the party unit yesterday.
Police and other sources said the blast took place when the meeting was going on at the Tantipara residence of Zebunnesa in the afternoon. The injured were admitted to Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital.
Zebunnesa suffered injuries to both her legs and was operated upon for removing splinters, a doctor at the hospital said. The explosion damaged some furniture and a TV set, and splinters even hit the ceiling of the first floor room of the five-storey building.
The injured include Joint Secretary of the Mohila AL unit and city mayor's wife Asma Kamran, Vicepresident of the unit and city ward commissioner Shahan Ara Begum and Organising Secretary Salma Basit. Three other injured are activists Khaitunnesa, Madhury Goon and Bibharani.
Shahan Ara, who suffered injuries to her back, said,"We started the meeting at3:50pm, and some one from outside the room threw the bomb about 40 minutes later. The bomb exploded with a big bang." Bibharani, who has injuries to her shoulder, said, "Somebody hurled the bomb through the open door of the room when we were discussing the opposition's agitation programme." A police official said however 'evidence does not suggest' the locally-made powerful bomb was hurled from outside the room.
It is not possible to say anything more till an investigation is carried out, he added wishing not to be named.
Kotwali police last night picked up two persons for quizzing on the blast.
They are domestic help at the former lawmaker's residence Hamida, and ZM Ilyas, nephew of a tenant
at the same building.
Meanwhile, the city and district units of the AL brought out a big procession and held a rally protesting
Former finance minister AMA Muhit and city Mayor Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran, among others, addressed the rally held at Court Point.
Source: The Daily Star
Seven of the eight leaders and activists injured in the powerful bomb blast at a meeting of Mohila Awami League in Sylhet yesterday.
Mon. December 20, 2004
5. 13 hurt as cocktail explodes at drama in Gaibandha
Our Correspondent, Gaibandha
At least 13 persons were injured, two of them seriously, in a cocktail explosion at the venue of a drama festival at Mohimaganj in Gobindaganj upazila on Friday.
Seriously injured persons were removed to Bogra Mohammed Ali Hospital in a critical condition.
According to police, a drama was being held on the premises of Mohimaganj Sugar Mills by Agomoni Dramatic Club that night. All on a sudden, two powerful cocktails fell on the audience.
Awestruck people began to run helter-skelter for safety.
The injured persons are Kartik Das,15, Sohel Rana,18, Ziaur Rahman Jwel,25, Ful Mia,22, Jaharul Islam,21, and Titu Mia,20.
Police visited the spot but could not identify the culprits. A case was filed with Gobindagnaj Police Station.
Source: The Daily Star
NATIONAL PATTERN OF EXTREMISM & FANATICISM IN BANGLADESH OVER PAST FEW YEARS
Data on Bomb Blasts (1999 – 2005)
Date Location District Targets Nature of Attack Number of Deaths Number of Injuries Updates of inquiry
Mar. 6, 1999 Udichi Central conference, Jessore, Conference of a leading secular cultural organization, explosive Implement underneath the earth, 10, 100, Charge sheet submitted but the process was negated by the government allowing the accused to go free.
Oct. 8, 1999 Ahmediya Mousque, Khulna Prayer Center of Ahmediya sect. 08, 26, No progress.
July 20, 2000 Kotalipara, Helipad Gopalgonj Attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Two heavy bombs were planted at the helipad - No progress.
Jan. 20, 2001 CPB Conference, Paltan Ground Dhaka Rally of Communist Party of Bangladesh explosive implement under neath the earth 07 50 No progress.
April 11, 2001 Darusha, Rajshahi................
April 14, 2001 Ramna Park, Dhaka, Bengali New Year celebration remote-controlled bombs were detonated 11, 22, Confessional statements were obtained but the Govt. has stalled the process.
June 3, 2001 Church at Baniarchar Gopalgonj Christian Church Time Bomb 10 25 No progress.
June 16, 2001 Awami League office in the town Narayanganj Office of Bangladesh's largest political party a powerful bomb was detonated 22 50 Police said the allegation against accused could not be proved. A new case was filed accusing a number of AL activists.
July 3, 2001 Bhola, Shramik League Office, AL, 0, 3, No case was filed
Sept. 23, 2001 Awami League rally Bagerhat Election Campaign rally 08 No progress.
Sept. 26, 2001 Awami League public meeting Sunamgonj Public meeting Bomb 04 No progress.
Sept. 26, 2001
Sept. 28, 2002 Gurpukurer Mela and Cinema Hall Satkhira, Visitors to a folk festival Bomb went off at the Mela. Another bomb was recovered from the cinema hall on the same day. 03 No progress.
Dec. 6, 2002 Four Cinema Halls Mymensing Spectators at movies Time bomb 27 300 No progress.
Jan. 17, 2003 Shrine of Pagla Pir at Shakhipur Tangail Village carnival Bomb 07 20 No progress.
Feb. 13, 2003 Islami Militants Camp (Jamaatul Mujahidin) at Chhoto Gurgola Dinajpur Documents revealed that the terrorist were planning to bomb an open air concert at Dinajpur Stadium and Festival of Painting Hena / Mehendi in hands. bombs exploded at the safe house of the militant 15 Accused were released by Court due to apparent lack of evidence.
Jan. 12, 2004 Shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal Sylhet Urs(Religious Congression) Bomb 05 50 No progress.
Jan. 15, 2004 Mirzapur Road, Khulna city Khulna Manik Saha, journalist, Khulnabased stringer of BBC and former president of Khulna Press Club. Bomb 01 -
Jan. 28, 2004 Poush Mela (winter fair), Golakandail, Rupgonj Narayangonj Visitors to 100 years old traditional Winter fair Bomb 02 20 No progress.
Feb. 21, 2004 Fulbaria Mymensing Gathering on Language Martyr Day A Bomb was recovered from a Still water tank and army made it inoperative. - - No progress.
May 21, 2004 Shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal Sylhet British High Commisioner Grenade 03 50 No progress.
June 21,2004 Awami League public meeting Sunamgonj Assasination attempt of Awami League law makers and exparliamentary affairs advisor to Hon’ble Prime minister Grenade 01 56
June 27, 2004 Dainik Janmabhumi office, Islampur Road, Khulna city Khulna Humayun Kabir Balu, ‘Dainik Janmabhumi’ Editor, also president of Khulna Press Club. Bomb 01 02 No progress
Aug. 05, 2004 Three Cinema Halls Sylhet Infront of Cinema Hall Bomb 01 10 No Progress.
Aug. 07, 2004 Gulshan Hotel Sylhet Mayor of Sylhet and local Awami League Leaders Grenade 01 30 No Progress
Date Location District Targets Nature of Attack Number of Deaths Number of Injuries Updates of inquiry
Aug. 21, 2004 Rally in front of Central Awami League office Dhaka Leader of the Opposition and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina Grenade 24 500
Dec. 17, 2004 Drama festival at Mohimaganj, Gobindaganj upazila Gaibandha Drama audience Bomb - 13
Dec. 25, 2004 Jatra (open-air drama) at Harinathpur in Palashbari upazila Gaibandha Jatra audience Bomb- 21
Dec. 24, 2004 Woman AL meeting, Tantipara, Sylhet. Sylhet Woman Awami League Leader Bomb - 10
Jan. 12, 2005 Drama festival, Chakpara village in Sadar upazila Sherpur Drama audience Bomb - 13
Jan. 14, 2005 Jatra (a folk theatre form) shows Laxmikola, Shahjahanpur upazila Bogra Jatra audience Bomb 01 50
Jan. 14, 2005 Jatra (a folk theatre form) shows Garfa Bazar, Boraigram upazila Natore Jatra audience Bomb 01 20
Jan. 27, 2005 Awami League meeting, Boiddyerbazar, Hobiganj Hobiganj Former Finance Minister, Awami League lawmaker and Presidium Member of Awami League Shah AMS Kibria Grenade 5 150
Feb. 5, 2005 Khulna Press Club Khulna Group of Journalists Bomb 1 4
Feb. 10, 2005 BRAC office (World wide reputed NGO, Mohimaganj Gaibandha BRAC office Bomb - 3
Feb. 14, 2005 Dhaka University Campus Dhaka Valentines Day programme Bomb - 16
Feb. 14, 2005 Kala BRAC office (World wide reputed NGO, i Upzila Joypurhat BRAC Office Bomb - 3
T O T A L : 164,1735
BUILD UP OF TERRORISM BY AND UNDER BNP-JAMAT ALLIANCE
The story began with the assumption of power by the Caretaker Government three years ago on July 15, 2001. The most hopeless campaign of the Caretaker Government was recovery of arms. On the other hand incidents of violence marked their 87 days in office. Actually as they began the process of transfer of power the terrorists got a new lease of life. Three bomb-blasts - in Bagerhat (23 September 2001), public meeting in Sunamganj (26 September 2001) and the folk festival in Satkhira (28 September 2001) - rocked the election campaign. Victory in this election by the BNP-Jamat Alliance immediately unleashed communal forces and persecution of the religious minority groups began.
Under the Caretaker Government the district administration and the police force assumed the role of silent observers while mayhem was staged by the victors, especially by the Jamaat forces. The Alliance regime initially passed through a denial syndrome branding all allegations and reports of persecution as deliberate attempt to tarnish their image. Emboldened goons fell to persecution of the vanquished Awami League. Murder, rape, grievous hurt, abduction, extortion, arson and grabbing of property by the mastans of the ruling junta was in store for AL leaders, workers and supporters or even supposed supporters. The spread of violence was assisted by release of 70,000 accused criminals.
As it reached an impossible situation and global condemnation and concern became unbearable Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia launched “operation clean heart”. It was announced that she called the armed forces to aid the civil authority to restore law and order in the country; the authority, however, was legislated just before the end of the operation.
Obviously she had failed and sought an exit route. The operation continued for 86 days from 16 October 2002 till 9 January 2003 and it took a toll of 58 cruel and illegal custodial deaths, about 20,000 tortured or maimed people and thousands of arrests.
Among the arrested people were many eminent Opposition leaders including members of parliament and former ministers.
Also jailed and tortured were leading intellectuals and journalists. But just before ending the rule of terror Begum Khaleda Zia granted immunity to all law enforcing agents for any crimes or offences committed by them during the operation.
This is, of course, mainly because of erosion of moral authority of a junta that patronizes violence and is also infested with mastans and godfathers. Even before the armed forces withdrew we witnessed bomb explosions in 4 cinema halls of Mymensingh on 6 December 2002.
Awami League leaders and workers, journalists and intellectuals were arrested for the crime and a judicial inquiry was also held. But the real culprits the fundamentalist extremists who enjoyed the patronage of ruling parties were thus allowed to slip away and the investigation ended without finding any criminals.
Sheer application of coercive powers reduced violence but it stepped up as if with added vigour with the end of the operation. Since then the junta has been experimenting with both coercive laws and a variety of armed units to control violence with little success.
Over the past eight months 230 custodial deaths, apparently in "crossfire" with primarily the newly formed Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), have been recorded.
Although these are clear instances of extra-judicial executions, the government appears to be very comfortable with these killings and take pride in defending them in public as a means of getting rid of "terrorists".
It is no surprise that not a single "terrorist" of Jamaat or any of the other extremist and fanatic groups have been "killed in crossfire" till date despite the fact that such cadres are known to have a virtual monopoly over sophisticated illegal arms.
Then there has been a series of bomb-blasts and grenade throwing in the last two years beginning with one at a village carnival at a shrine at Sakhipur in Tangail on 17 January 2003.On 13 Feb. 2003 Dinajpur was rocked by a bomb blast in the house of the leader of an extremist group called Jamatul Mujahidin.
But this is not all. All over the country a reign of terror is the goal of Khaleda-Nizami junta. On 28 Jan. 2004 a traditional fair in Narayanganj was blasted causing 7 deaths. A few days later on 21 Feb. 2004 a gathering for Martyrs’ day was bombed and 2 deaths were reported.
But none of these incidents were given any importance by the junta and no proper investigation was carried out.
It looks as if the junta was determined to give religious fanatics and extremists a free hand through a culture and climate of impunity and immunity.
It is no wonder perhaps that given the gravity of the situation, the European Union Heads of Missions in Dhaka felt compelled to issue a public statement after the assassination of Mr. Kibria expressing their "shock and dismay" and their "deep concern that the apparent failure to investigate previous attacks had led to a climate of impunity".
The U.S. Department of State also in a statement drew attention to the failure of the Government to bring to justice the perpetrators of acts of political violence fostering an "intimidating climate of insecurity and impunity that encourages further attacks". Not only are these acts of terrorism being committed with impunity, peaceful and lawful means of protest have been met with a level of violence and brutality not seen even during military and autocratic rule as the images in the following pages depict. Women activists of the Awami League have been specifically targeted by the Police who are also being aided by armed thugs of the Ruling Alliance.
Ruling BNP adherents attacked leaders and workers of Awami League and foiled a human chain they were trying to form at Sadarghat, Dhaka. (Source: Daily Star, Sep 30, 2003)
BRUTAL AND VIOLENT POLICE ACTION ON PEACEFUL RALLIES
Under the broad heading of "Build up of terrorism under BNP/Jammat Alliance, we wish to highlight the following four dimensions:
1. Engineering of the electoral process
2. Assassination of Awami League Members of Parliament
3. Killing of Intellectuals and free thinkers
4. Attacks on the Media
5. Persecution of Religious Minorities
6. Assassination attempts on Sheikh Hasina
1) ENGINEERING OF THE ELECTORAL PROCESS
Given that without integrity of the electoral process democracy is just a fiction, this is a matter of serious concern in Bangladesh. Free and fair election has been the most unfortunate victim of sixteen long years of
military rule in the country from 1975 to 1990. Stuffing of ballot boxes began with the referendum held by General Ziaur Rahman on 30 May 1977 when he secured affirmative votes of 98.88 percent with a voter turnout of 88.5 percent.
In the parliamentary election in 1973 the voter turnout was only 54 percent. The military rulers used to predetermine the number of seats to be given to various parties and the district administration would accordingly engineer the results. Even before martial law there was some rigging especially in the constituencies of renowned crooks and powerful people but civil administration would seldom be a party to it. But military rulers with the help of very capable bureaucrats institutionalized false voting through various devices. Military rulers also held innumerable national elections on some or other pretexts.
General Zia held two national elections after the fraudulent referendum. Justice Sattar held one presidential election. General HM Ershad held besides a referendum three more elections. Thus in 16 years of military rule we had 8 national elections.
The civil administration being party to the perpetration of rigged elections does not seem to know what it takes to hold fair elections.
The fall of the military strongman by a mass upsurge and a neutral Interim Government ensured a reasonably fair election in February 1991. BNP under Khaleda Zia began to follow the lessons of the military regimes in the by-elections that they conducted. This election rigging reached unprecedented level in Magura byelection in March 1994.
Awami League along with other opposition parties then began a movement for a caretaker government to hold national elections. BNP refused to accept the idea and thus began the culture of parliament boycott by the opposition as a mark of protest against the obstinacy and misrule of the government.
In February 1996 Khaleda held a voterless national election and the civil administration went back to its tradition of rigging elections. BNP’s massive victory in that fraudulent one party election initiated a virtual civil disobedience movement in the country. A mass upsurge resulted in the resignation of this illegitimate regime but not before it passed a flawed constitutional amendment for a caretaker government to hold national elections on a regular basis.
At a critical juncture even the flawed provision for caretaker government brought a sigh of relief. A caretaker government was quickly installed and despite some some serious challenges the bold leadership of the Chief Adviser ensured a fair election in June 1996. This is not the story, however, for the election held in October 2001. The Caretaker Government behaved in a highly partisan and inefficient manner and the question of its accountability came to the foreground.
Since the October 2001 parliamentary elections, specific measures have already being taken by the BNP-Jamat regime to stage a rigged election next time through a deliberate and well thought out blue print of engineering the electoral process. Public declarations from highest level have been made to effect they will not allow AL to come back to power in fifty years or ever.
1. First, the regime is making it almost impossible for the opposition to organize itself for election. They are repeatedly obstructed by both the law enforcing agencies and terrorists of the ruling junta in holding their party organisational conferences . The AL is being deprived of its most rudimentary rights as a political party and even programmes of hunger strikes have been prevented through the most violent and brutal of methods.
In Bangladesh today there appears little scope to express dissent. AL leaders and workers are unnecessarily harassed and false cases are filed against them so that they remain busy with them or flee the area of their residence. Whenever any incident of violence or arms haul occurs propaganda begins from the highest level to derail investigation by pointing the accusing finger at AL and then the culprits escape scotfree and the investigations end in utter failure.
Key AL activists even at village levels have been targeted through acts of terrorism and in many instances killed or maimed for life. Their businesses have been locked up and even their children have been prevented from attending schools. In some instances, entire communities have been uprooted. There are still literally thousands of AL activists and workers who have not been able to go back to their own homes and families in the villages and have instead taken refuge in Dhaka.
Above all, we have every reason to believe that they have undertaken a programme of systematic assassination of AL popular and highly respcted leaders and activists, especially those who are likely candidates in the next parliamentary elections. The latest victims of this "assassination spree" have been 2 MPs - Mr. Ahsanullah Master MP who was gunned down in his constituency in broad daylight in open
party conference and Mr. Shah AMS Kibria who was the victim of a grenade attack also in his constituency.
Prior to that distinguished leaders have been killed in Khulna (Advocate Manjurul Imam), Natore (Momtaz Uddin), Comilla (Mujibul Huq), Jhenidah (Abdul Hai MP) Dhaka (Saiful Papash), Fakirhat (Atahar Ali) and innumerable others.
2. Secondly, the fourteenth amendment of the constitution is partly inspired by an attempt to ensure a caretaker government of BNP’s complete choice for the next 15 Growing fanaticism & extremism in Bangladesh : Shades of the Taliban election by ensuring that the Chief Advisor will be an all out wells-wisher of BNP.
Justice K M Hasan was made the Chief Justice by the BNP-Jamat government superseding other judges in the face of strong protest by the legal community. Soon after his retirement the age of retirement of the Judges has been so changed as to ensure that Justice Hasan remains the first choice for the appointment as Chief Adviser i.e. the head of government of the next Caretaker government. He was a BNP activist as a lawyer. He was made an Ambassador by the BNP government of general Zia. He functioned as the International Affairs secretary of BNP under Khaleda Zia prior to his elevation to the bench.
3. Thirdly, the civil administration is being completely politicized to ensure an administration bounden to the regime and this consideration becomes critical when the fact that the Election Commission is completely reliant on the civil admininistration during the elections, is considered. During thre first two years of the
regime the following officers were purged on the plea of being politically partisan.
Civil servants ..............................................5119
Police officers .............................................844
Officers placed as OSDs without work ........241
This government went on to decide on appointment of political activists in civil service positions. Further, it enormously increased contract employees and transferred field officers in large numbers in order to place officers of their choice in sensitive positions. They have thus ruined the neutrality of the administration. It should also be remembered that of about 130,000 officers (professional level), only about 23000 were in service (now about 8000 must have retired) before General Zia’s military coup and about 9000 were recruited by the AL regime of Sheikh Hasina. Thus most of the recruits were inducted into service by BNP and her coalition partners.
The number of contract employees in senior positions, i.e. Secretary, Additional Secretary, Joint Secretary and equivalent status, in the first two years of this regime increased to 295, transfers in field positions numbered 3012.
The time-honoured rules of promotion have been changed secretly and supercession is a regular phenomenon now. The ruling junta is promoting large number of officers much in excess of vacancies to make sure that the Caretaker government cannot consider anyone outside this list for promotion if they decide to change incumbents.
97 have been promoted to Secretary and Additional Secretary level in 2003 against actual vacancies of 47 only. Presently among the little over 100 positions of this level 37 are contract employees.
At the level of Joint Secretary very recently 84 have been promoted in addition to promotion of 178 and 49 promoted in 2002 and 2003 respectively. In February 2003, 493 were promoted at the level of Deputy Secretary. In these promotions supercession of senior officers is commonplace; for example in the recent promotion of 84 Joint Secretaries 101 officers have been superseded in addition to nearly 50 superseded earlier in 2002 and 2003. 20 more were promoted from different cadres.
As with the civil administration and the police, a similar trend of politicization of the armed forces and the para-military Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) is also very much evident. A number of officers have been retired and others have been superceeded in order to ensure that those sympathetic to the BNP Jamaat Alliance occupy all critical posts/positions.
4. Finally, the experience with local government elections of last years is also very frightening. In Nandail, Mymensingh, a Police Superintendent, a high profile beneficiary of the politicisation culture of the current Government and one with a very bad reputation (famous Kohinoor Mia of "torture therapy") opened fire in a polling booth without an order from the Magistrate on duty and killed political activists of the opposition candidate.
In Munshiganj where the last election was won by the newly formed Bikolpo Dhara, a supporter of the winning candidate was killed in broad daylight while celebrating the victory. In Dhaka-10 where the next by-election is due on 01 July 2004, Khaleda Zia’s personal staff, who is a candidate, is making a mockery of electoral rules.
5. Nexus between crime and politics has assumed an institutional form under the BNP-Jamaat Alliance rule. The March 2002 City Corporation elections in Dhaka City witnessed the nomination of no fewer than 33 criminals as candidates of BNPJamaat and it is no coincidence that after their election, five of them were gunned down due to their internal feuds.
Other than the local government elections, in a parliamentary seat by-election in Kushtia in 2003, BNP-Jamaat Alliance nominated a person who was arrested on criminal charges by this very Government in 2002 and he is now a MP. Crminals, with access to an almost limitless supply of and access to illegal firearms, do not believe in will of the electorate and the frighteningly rapid criminalisation of politics under the ruling Alliance means that "money and muscle", and not the the choice of the voters, may well determine election results.
6. Relying on this "money and muscle" theory, the priority appears to be to generate and accumulate as much wealth and financial resources as possible. Corruption is rampant and the plundering of state resources all too common these days. The emergence of "Hawa Bhaban" and the Prime Minister's son Tareq as a
paralell centre of power has given this culture and practice of unbridled corruption an impetus which does not bode at well for our democratic aspirations.
7. Bangladesh Awami League's secular ideals and cerdentials have all along been viewed sympathetically by the religious minorities and it has traditionally enjoyed the general support of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh. The systematic and orchestrated violence and persecution against the religious
minorities by armed goons of the BNP-Jamaat Alliance since the October 2001 elections is to be viewed in this context. In these elections only a small percentage of the religious minorities were allowed to cast their votes and despite this the AL emerged as the single largest party by polling 41% of the popular vote - an increase of almost 4% on its 1996 support.
This fact was so disconcerting to the Alliance, partucularly the fundamentalist Jamaat, that organised persecution of religious minorities was the chosen path to ensure that these minorities do not consider voting at all in the future. If democracy is indeed a system of majority rule and protection of minority rights, are
we a democracy today?
2) ASSASSINATION OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT HIGHEST VALUE TARGETS:
As sitting Members of Parliament, first Mr. Master and within eight months thereafter, Mr. Shah AMS Kibria have been two popelar and widely regarded and respected individuals who have been successfully
targeted for elimination since the October 2001 Parliamentary elections.
Since the Alliance government assumed power, minorities and opposition voters and supporters at grass root level were targeted for harassment and persecution, followed by the local and regional leaders, and subsequently, the national leaders faced government’s wrath.
The following comments with regard to Mr. Master’s case provide a frightening insight to the mindset of the ruling Alliance. The Police with full knowledge of him being a Member of Parliament clubbed Mr. Master viciously on 12th February 2004 along with Political Secretary to Leader of the Opposition who is also a former Minister and Member of Parliament. Mr. Master, along with two other MPs and Senior Leaders of the Awami League were even implicated in a criminal case by the government for allegedly stealing dinner
plates from a river ferry, an absurd accusation and yet another instance of Government harassment/targeting of opposition leaders.
The assassination of Ahshan Ullah Master was not an isolated incident; rather it was part of systematic national campaign of terror and extreme repression unleashed by the Alliance Government, starting from grass-root workers to national leaders, including most importantly, prospective candidates from Awami League in the next parliamentary elections – all part of the brutal and systematic “Awami League Cleansing” agenda of the Alliance Government. As examples, Mr.Momtaz (Natore), Mr. Monzurul Imam (Khulna), Mr. Amjad Hossain (Naogaon) and Mr. Shamsul Alam Suruj (Lalmonirhat) are specific instances of former and sitting public representatives and prospective candidates of the future being assassinated.
Ahsanullah Master MP & Shah AMS Kibria MP, Ahsanullah Master MP, Momtaz Uddin, Advocate Manzurul Imam, Shamsul Islam Suruj, Shah AMS Kibria
All these individuals, as Mr. Master too, fought in the War of Liberation, were very popular and highly regarded and respected leaders and extremely effective organizers.
On more than one occasion in the past, formal communications have been sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs detailing hundreds of case summaries of political assassinations involving Opposition activists and leaders and demanding due investigation of all such instances as well as appropriate steps to ensure such killings stop forthwith.
The Government did not deem it necessary to even respond to, or acknowledge, these letters and the executions have continued with increased frequency. The question that concerned citizens are posing is simply, where is the country heading to and when will this clear pattern of unrestrained political executions, end. Mr. Master’s assassination has raised the threshold to highest possible level giving to rise to question as to who would be next target, and how high could it go, and where it will stop.
It would not be a surprise at all, to witness over the coming months other leaders of the Awami League meet the same fate as that of Mr. Master. This assassination at the same time sends a very clear and graphic message to all opposition MPs and leaders at all levels of what might happen to them.
Failure to protect the life of a Member of Parliament demonstrates a complete breakdown of law and order and the inability of the government to discharge its primary duty of offering protection and security to its citizens. If an MP’s life is not secure, then how safe could it be for others. This sense of total insecurity has permeated to all segments of the society.
This assassination has been planned and executed with methodical and military precision. The response and reaction of the Police following the assassination raises questions about government’s prior-knowledge or even involvement in the crime.
CRIME SCENE SECURITY:
The Police did not secure the crime scene immediately after the incident. Done routinely as a first step for collection of forensic and other material evidence, the Police failed to pick up vital evidence to link the perpetrators. This deliberate failure, noticed also in instances of other high profile victims1, clearly indicates direct government connivance or at the very least, continued and repeated serious dereliction of responsibilities and criminal negligence. This cannot be explained away by incompetence. It is an established and self evident fact that the Government when it chooses to act, can and does act. So the question to be asked is why does the Government choose not to act in ceratin cases.
RELUCTANCE TO INITIATE INVESTIGATION:
The Police did not begin investigation until the brother of the victim formally reported the assassination and filed a case some thirty-six hours after the incident and well after Mr. Master’s burial.
1 During failed assassination attempt on Dr. Humayun Azad (for which the Prime Minister in an open meeting held the Awami League responsible although Dr. Azad himself has said it was the religious zealots and radicals who tried to murder him), public from the crime scene recovered the machete used a day later, but the police, who claimed to have searched after the incident, failed.
The senior most Police officer Ms. Yasmin Gafur, Superintendent of Police (SP), a day after the incident said to media that investigation could not start as no complaint had been filed.
This inability of the Police to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) themselves and start investigation immediately after the crime and to loose precious early moments, along with the failure on their part to secure the crime scene, offer conclusive proof of the Government’s association and involvement in this assassination.
The Police, on the other hand, swiftly initiated complaints on their own accord, against the common man (who angrily reacted to Mr. Master’s assassination and caused damage to palatial property of a “Hawa Bhaban” associate of Prime Minister’s son) by not only filing a case but also arresting individuals despite no
complaints or case being filed by the owner of the property. (see attached)
THE PRESS NOTE:
If at all one needs further evidence of the Government’s involvement in assassination of Mr. Master, the Press Note issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, within hours of the incident, should suffice. It dealt with the motive of the incident as internal conflict within the organization.
This Note has raised two broad questions; whether the government had enough information about the motive of the assassination given that that it came out within hours with such a definite statement, even when the investigation had not begun, post mortem on the body had not been done and no complaint / criminal case had even been filed.
And, if affirmative, what did the Government do with it, and why it did not stop the assassination?
The other important question is, why frustrate the investigation by imputing on the motive of the crime?
Given that the Prime Minister herself is also holding the portfolio of Ministry of Home, these basic concerns on complicity of the Government assume greatest significance. The Police controlled by the Home Minister, assuming that they would like to mount an independent investigation, will now not be able to investigate because of the public position the Government has taken on the matter through issuance of this Press Note which has effectively set the parameter for the investigations, thus foreclosing and prohibiting the possibility of a due and neutral enquiry. Again, this practice to thwart or foreclose investigation and in so doing effectively “ring fence” the Alliance from any responsibility, has been a common feature of this government, particularly after such major incidents.
2 Such action and practice merely encourages perpetrators of crimes to act with immunity and impunity and further reinforce the growing nexus between crime and politics. When the brother of Mr. Master filed the case and named amongst others a Mr. Nurul Islam Sarker, Labour Affairs Secretary of Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal, youth faction of the ruling BNP, as the one who masterminded the assassination, Police even one week
later has not made any attempt to question him, let alone take him to custody.
2 Within hours following recovery of largest arms haul in Chittagong, the State Minister of Home said
to BBC that the Awami League may be behind these imports as part of its “conspiracy”.
Mr. Sarker meanwhile was moving about freely in the locality and giving interviews on national television. Graffiti on various public walls in Gazipur testify to fact that Mr. Sarker found a berth in Central Committee of BNP’s youth front due to the blessings of son of the Prime Minister, Tareq Rahman and his infamous “Hawa Bhaban”.
Mr. Master’s brother and his family were repeatedly threatened to withdraw the case that has been filed and have been warned that if the case is not withdrawn, they will dig up Mr. Master’s dead body from the grave.
INVESTIGATION AND THEREAFTER:
As pressure from Civil Society and Media mounted to conduct an investigation into the matter, the Government had no option but to act. As the investigation progressed and witnesses started to narrate what they saw, it became clear that the killing was indeed a planned assassination with clear political motives and patronage. At one point, the Investigation Officer of the enquiry, Mr. M.A. Baten, Police Super of Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and a well reputed and regarded Officer who was twice awarded the President’s Medal, raided the residence of Mr. Sarker based on statement and testimony of the witnesses in presence of Magistrates under s.164. Given the blessing and patronage extended by “Hawa Bhaban” to Mr.
Sarker, the raid of the residence was not looked upon kindly. Mr. Sarker was removed from the case and transferred to Chittagong Hill Tracts, a “punishment posting”. The drama however did not end here.
On June 03, Mr. Baten was arrested, placed on remand and is now in jail reportedly for trying to “bribe” State Minister for Home Affairs and that too in Office of the Minister!
The above arrest though came too late from the Government’s perspective to thwart the enquiry as the Charge Sheet process had been completed and Mr. Sarker was identified as the main accused based on eye witness testimony recorded. Charge Sheet was accordingly duly submitted to the Court. After above, on July 15th, Sumon the main and No. 1 witness in Charge Sheet submitted to the Court, was picked up from his residence by members of the newly formed Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) - apparently on an extortion complaint filed by someone - and taken to their interrogation cell in Uttara where he was subjected to repeated torture. Sumon died in custody and his body bore numerous torture marks. Although a Charge Sheet has been submitted, the officer who was responsible for conducting the investigation is now in prison and main witness has been tortured to death during interrogation! Although the trial process of Mr. Master’s assassination is far from being complete, the false and politically motivated cases filed by the Government implicating activists, supporters and workers of the AL who protested the murder, has already been completed and sentences announced. Sumon (25)
Commentary: The Daily Star, January 29, 2005
One by one Opposition leaders are being killed
We are outraged, shocked and deeply saddened by the brutal murder of SAMS Kibria, one of the most educated, experienced, internationally reputed, highly cultured and mild mannered politicians of the country. We condemn the killings and express our disgust at the fact that our government has done practically nothing so far to unearth the criminals who have, with near impunity, carried one brutal political murders one after another.
One by one Awami League leaders are falling victims to terrorist attacks. Some are being killed in grenade attacks and others like Ahsanullah Master of Gazipur in brushfire by armed hooligans in broad day light in front of hundreds of people. What sort of a democracy are we living in where opposition leaders get killed, their rallies are systematically attacked, their activists constantly brutalised by police and ruling party thugs, and where those who kill opposition leaders and activists are never caught, leave alone punished.
With the murder of SAMS Kibria the country loses one of the most highly talented bureaucrat-turned politicians who genuinely wanted to serve the country. He wanted to bring about a genuine change in our political system. Compared to what goes on in the name of political rhetoric, Kibria was always mild in his comments and measured in his criticisms of the ruling BNP and its alliance partners. His regular column, that this paper carried for several years before he became the finance minister and the pieces he wrote occasionally after losing power in the last election, though written from a partisan perspective, were always logical, well developed and constructive. He tried to argue his case, as it should be, instead of bulldozing a
particular point of view through that has become our political practice.
With all his education, experience, professionalism and rationality, he fell victim to a political culture of violence and irrationality that is dragging our country towards an abyss of intolerance and blindness which cannot lead to anything positive for our beloved country. Kibria's murder must be seen as a serious attack at the very core of the body politic.
Unlike the opposition, we will not be quick to blame the ruling coalition for this political murder. But we feel forced to question the government's sincerity in unearthing the crimes and identifying the criminals in the murders that took place before. This paper chronicled yesterday the large number of incidents of bomb
attacks, grenade attacks and violent killings that have gone on since 1999. There is of course the fact that bomb attacks occurred even under the Awami League (AL) regime and nothing was done even then. But that cannot be a justification for the type of inaction and farcical investigation that we have seen so far.
The attack on an AL rally in the capital killing Ivy Rahman and 22 others and nearly killing the leader of the opposition last year was by far the biggest and most brutal on politicians that Bangladesh had seen since the restoration of democracy in 1991.
The choice of Kibria as the target should not be lost on anybody. His was one of the staunchest voices for secularism and against extremism, terrorism and the increasing use of religion in our politics. His was
one of the early warning voices against Taliban penetration into our national politics.
The world was shocked and leaders from far and wide joined our people in expressing anxiety about our democracy. The government seemed to share that shock initially. Our people felt somewhat asssured that finally some serious government action will be taken and the culprits will be caught.
To our utter disappointment and shock, we saw a farce of an investigation which practically amounted to a clear signal to the perpetrators that they were safe and could go on with their brutality. And they did. To our sheer disbelief, we saw a story being woven that the AL itself did it to destabilise the government. Repeatedly did we hear the question from the ruling coalition leaders that 'how come none of the nearly a dozen grenades fell to the truck on which Sheikh Hasina stood, and all of them fell on the ground'. This was proof enough that the AL was the culprit!
Some even said that it was staged by Sheikh Hasina herself to garner sympathy for her anti-government movement. The ruling alliance appeared quite satisfied with this 'explanation'. As a consequence, the whole government machinery, instead of digging deep into the crime, was used to further maligning the opposition. The result, inevitably, was a deepening of the political chasm between the AL and the BNP and creation of greater opportunity for those who wanted to continue with the terrorist activities.
This paper and this writer have repeatedly urged the government to see the attack on the opposition as, what it truly is, an attack on democracy. The bombs thrown at the opposition rally today could easily be thrown at the BNP rally tomorrow. The choice of Kibria as the target should not be lost on anybody. His was one of the staunchest voices for secularism and against extremism, terrorism and the increasing use of religion in our politics. His was one of the early warning voices against Taliban penetration into our national politics.
All that he said may not be true but all that he hinted at have definitely come to haunt us today.
Democratic values and norms are under serious attack. It is far beyond the ruling alliance versus opposition issue. Unless concerted and tough actions against the perpetrators of political murders and terrorism are taken immediately, our democratic future may come under serious threat.
3) KILLING OF PROGRESSIVE INTELLECTUALS & FREE THINKERS
Other than the coordinated attacks all over the country on secular and progressive forces, since the October 2001 Parliamentary Elections the intellectuals have also been targeted. The most high profile of these cases was the attempt on February 27, 2004 to hack him to death Dr. Humayun Azad, one of Bangladesh’s most respected free-thinkers and intellectuals, well known for his progressive views and strong stance against religious extremism and radicalism. Despite the Government’s attempt to explain this away as a plot and conspiracy of the Opposition, Dr. Azad has stated in categorical and unequivocal terms that it was the extremist religious forces that were responsible. He specifically named two Jamaat Alliance MPs – Delwar Hussain Sayeedi and Mr. Motiur Rahman Nizami (Chief of Jamaat and a Senior Minister in the Government).
It is perhaps no coincidence that the barbaric attack on Dr. Azad was mounted days after Mr. Sayeedi chastised Dr. Azad in Parliament (on January 25, 2004) for one of his books and called for its ban on grounds that it was anti-Islam. The first bomb explosion in Sylhet on 12th January 2004 also took place ten days after Mr. Sayeedi in a public meeting referred to various aspects of shrine culture as being “Haraam and anti - Islamic. (see note on “Mindless Cruelty At Urs At Hazrat Shah Jalal (Sm) Dargah” page 18)
Azad returns, blames Jamaat for attack
DU Correspondent - Daily Star - May 08 2004
Eminent linguist, writer and Dhaka University teacher Prof Humayun Azad on his return home yesterday again blamed the Jamaat-e-Islami fundamentalists for the attack on him. "Jamaat-e-Islami lawmakers Delwar Hossain Saidee and Motiur Rahman Nizami should be brought to justice for the attack on me," Azad told reporters at Zia International Airport (ZIA) after his arrival at 11:30am. He received 48-day treatment for his injuries at a Bangkok hospital.
"If Saidee and Nizami are caught, the real attackers will be identified," he said adding, "There're reasons to suspect those who have close links to the fundamentalists." "It's the fundamentalists who wanted to kill me. no one but the killers and cadres are safe in this country. Our country should be rid of Razakars and fundamentalists if we want to save it." Azad categorically said. He went on, " I am the first prey of Islamic fundamentalism that has raised its ugly head in the country. Although the fundamentalists have failed (to kill me) this time, I know they will continue their attacks."
Humayun Azad, bleeding profusely, after the attack
RU teacher knifed to death
Murder sparks protests: Ruta calls strike, AL to enforce hartal
Anwar Ali and Abu Kalam, Rajshahi : Sat. December 25, 2004
Unidentified assailants knifed and hammered a Rajshahi University (RU) professor to death at Binodpur
in the city yesterday morning sparking off daylong agitation and public outcry. Muhammad Yunus, 63, professor of economics and a former registrar of the university, was attacked and killed at about 6:10am some 150 yards from his house while he was taking his regular morning walk, police and witnesses said. He had gone out of the house at 5:30am. A prominent left-leaning teacher, Yunus was president of RU Bangabandhu Parishad and senior vice-president of Bangladesh Economic Association. The murder was pre-planned, said police investigators, colleagues and relatives.
They suspect the killers may have links to the student wing of the ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islam, as the front-line pro-Liberation War teacher was attacked once in the past, on November 30, 1995, by Islami Chhatra Shibir cadres in front of RU Shaheed Minar.
Motihar Police Station Officer-in-Charge Akram Hossain said the killing was deliberate and done by professionals. He said a man informed them of the incident at 7:00am but did not disclose his identity. Protesting the killing, students barricaded the Rajshahi-Dhaka highway for three hours from 10:00am and staged a demonstration putting tyres on fire.
A number of political, student and teachers' organisations announced agitation programmes including hartal, strike and work abstention demanding prompt and proper investigation into the murder. The victim's son Rashed Zaman Shovon, a part-time teacher at the music and dramatics department, told reporters, "I doubt whether we will get justice."
Neighbours found the elderly academician's body lying in a pool of blood beside a road, 25 yards off the
Dhaka-Rajshahi highway, at about quarter past six in the morning, police sources said. There were four stab injuries to the body -- one in the head, two in the chest and one in the lower abdomen. His head also bore several wounds from hammer blows. The victim was wearing warm clothes, a cap, hand-gloves and a gamchha (local cotton towel) around his neck. Neighbours guess the murder must have been committed quickly and efficiently, taking not more than 10 minutes, after which the killers dragged his body to the roadside and left the scene. "Even at six o'clock, I did not see anything untoward at the place," said Abdul Mannan, who lives nearby.
As the news spread, people including neighbours, teachers, politicians, journalists and students rushed to the victim's house. Rajshahi Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, RU Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Faisul Islam Faruki, Islamic University VC Prof Rafiqul Islam, senior RU teachers and police officials visited the scene. Enraged, several hundred RU students blocked the Rajshahi-Dhaka highway felling trees on the road in
front of RU main gate at 10:00am.
They staged a sit-in on the highway and set fire to tyres, chanting slogans against the RU VC and management for their failure to ensure security to teachers and students. The demonstrating students scuffled with police at noon when the latter tried to remove the trees from the highway. The barricade was withdrawn at 1:00pm to make way for Yunus' burial procession.
Hundreds of people joined his first namaz-e-janaza at Shaheb Bazar Zero Point in the late afternoon.
Another namaz was held at RU mosque. He was laid to rest in RU Graveyard after the evening prayers.
Rajshahi Awami League called a dawn to dusk hartal in the district on December 30 in protest against
the killing. Progressive Students' Alliance will enforce strike on December 27 and Bangladesh Chhatra League on December 28 on the RU campus.
Prof. Muhammad Yunus
Rajshahi University Teachers' Association (Ruta) in an urgent meeting yesterday afternoon adopted a
work abstention programme from December 26 to 31. "We will go for tougher movement if the authorities fail to identify the killers by December 31," said Ruta President Prof. Khalekuzzaman.
Rajshahi units of Awami League and Workers Party condoled the murder and blamed Jamaat-Shibir and
pro-government elements for it. Islamic University VC Rafiqul Islam said a man like Yunus could not have any personal enemy, while RU Progressive Teachers' Association leader Prof Entajul Haque said he had no enemy except political ones. A number of socio-cultural organisations including Muktijuddho Library, Sammilito Sangskritik Jote and Gono Sanghati Andolon also condemned the killing.
President of Rajshahi Liberation War Library Sayed Shafiqul Alam said, "It's the work of the [Islamic]
fundamentalists. If the case is not properly investigated, they will be encouraged more to act against the spirit of Liberation War." Senior Jamaat leaders in the city were not available for their comments. But RU Shibir President Rezaul Karim denied any involvement in the killing. He said Jamaat and Shibir also condemn the murder and demonstrated on the campus demanding justice.
PROFILE OF YUNUS
Yunus was born in 1941 in Rangpur.
He had a brilliant academic record. He stood second in matriculation examinations in 1956, preceded by
Wazed Mia, husband of Opposition Leader Sheikh Hasina. But, Yunus managed to bag the first place in
higher secondary school certificate exams in 1958. He joined the RU as a lecturer of economics in 1963 and was made a professor in 1997. During the Liberation War, the economist served at the planning commission of the interim government of Bangladesh. He was elected a member of the RU syndicate twice and worked as students' adviser and proctor in early '90s. He also held the chair of economics department and been elected to the senate and the finance committee of the varsity.
Yunus was registrar of the university for three years since 1997. He served as Ruta general secretary in
1987 and president in 1996. His wife Rehana Khatun and son Rashed live in Rajshahi, while his daughter Sara Khatun, a lawyer, lives in Dhaka with her husband.
Source: The Daily Star
4) Attacks on the Media
SOME OF THE JOURNALISTS KILLED DURING THE PAST 3 YEARS
NAME: Manik Saha .
DATE: January 15,2004 .
PLACE: In front of Khulna Press club.
PERSONAL: Mr Saha worked for the New Age newspaper and the BBC Bengali service.
DESCRIPTION: Mr Saha, died when attackers threw a bomb at his rickshaw. No one has admitted carrying out the attack. Mr Saha died instantly in the attack Journalists in Khulna say Mr Saha had
received several death threats from unknown groups and spent much of last year under police protection.
NAME: Humayun Kabir Balu.
DATE: June 27, 2004.
PERSONAL: President of Khulna Press Club & Editor, Dainik Janmabhumi Khulna .
DESCRIPTION: Balu was killed and his elder son injured in a bomb attack apparently by a leftist extremist posing as a peanut vendor in southwestern Khulna City, police and witnesses said.
NAME: Sheikh Belaluddin.
DATE: February 11, 2005.
PERSONAL: Khulna Bureau Chief , Dainik Sangram .
DESCRIPTION: Sheikh Belaluddin succumbed to the injuries sustained in the February 5 bomb attack.
ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS
NAME: Moyeen Chowdhury.
DATE: April 4, 2002.
PERSONAL: Editor "Daily Shikol“.
DESCRIPTION: A news item regarding the alleged corrupt practices and illegal activities of Kushtia district administration was published in the newspaper 'Daily Shikol'. He was taken into police custody and later moved to a Hospital, but even these he had to suffer the indignity of being handcrafted.
NAME: Syed Nazmul Islam,
DATE: May 27, 2002.
PERSONAL: He is correspondent of "Daily Manabzamin".
DESCRIPTION: He was stabbed by miscreants in the early hours. They beat him brutally and cut off his thumb for reporting on criminal activities in the region.
NAME: Shahriar Kabir.
DATE: December 20, 2001 & December 8, 2002.
PLACE: Court Premises Dhaka.
PERSONAL: A Writer, Journalist Human Rights activist.
DESCRIPTION: He was charged with treason for investigating and reporting on minority repression. He held his head high throughout his 59-day incarceration and torture. Amnesty International referred to him as a prisoner of conscience. In December 8, 2002 Gulshan police re-arrested him from his house in small hours on December 8. But for unknown reasons he was taken to Cantonment thana. The Gulshan police brought charges against him for cooperating with two foreign journalists. But it was under section 54.
NAME: Belal Chowdhury.
DATE: August 24, 2002.
PERSONAL: Journalist, Daily Thikana, Faridpur
DESCRIPTION: The hoodlums of the BNP-Jamaat Government attacked on him in broad daylight in the heart of the city and smashed away his fingers and wrist of both hands. He died after a few days.
NAME: Muntasir Mamun.
DATE: December 8, 2002.
PERSONAL: Professor of History Department at Dhaka University, historian, writer, columnist.
DESCRIPTION: He was arrested under section 54 without any reason. On December 18, the High Court granted ad- interim bail for him in different cases. It later allowed him bail and asked the government to release him within 24 hours.
29 Growing fanaticism & extremism in Bangladesh : Shades of the Taliban
NAME: Enamul Huq Chowdhury .
DATE: December 13, 2002
PERSONAL: Former Senior Reporter of Bangladesh News Organization, Country Reporter of Reuter.
DESCRIPTION: Metropolitan Detective Police arrested him for a report he filed regarding possible involvement of Al Qaida in Mymensingh Bomb blasts. In a statement filed with the Courts after his release his bail, Enam described in vivid detail the barbaric torture methods employed to extract a “confession” out of him implicating former Prime Minister Sk Hasina and her Political Secretary in the Mymensingh bomb blasts.
NAME: Saleem Samad
DATE: November 29, 2002.
PERSONAL: RSF Representative.
DESCRIPTION: Dhaka Metropolitan Detective Police (DB) arrested Journalist Salim Samad in sedition case for helping two foreign Journalist of Channel 4. He was tortured brutally in police custody and his toture ordeal has subsequently been published in “TIME” Magazine under the title, “A Priosner’s Tale”.
NAME: Zaiba Malik and Bruno Sorrentino.
DATE: November 25, 2002.
PERSONAL: Journalist of British TV Channel 4.
DESCRIPTION: They, along with their interpreter Pricila Raj were arrested by police as they were about to cross the eastern border into India and taken to the capital, Dhaka, for interrogation on suspicion of so called subversive activities. They were in the country to prepare a programme about the political and religious situation. Authority sent them to jail but freed them on December 3, 2002 due to international pressure.
NAME: Prisila Raj.
DATE: November 25, 2002.
PERSONAL: Interpreter and N.G.O worker.
DESCRIPTION: Pricilla Raj was arrested by police from Rajbari on November 25 . She was brought to DB custody on five-day remand. Police unleashed inhuman torture on her during her remand. She was given electric shock to make statement. She was threatened that she will again be given electric shock if she doesn’t make the statement. The two foreign journalists were freed on December 11, but not Pricilla, arrested on charges of assisting them. A High Court bench on December 18 granted Pricilla bail on December 18. She was released on December 22, four days after the High Court order.
DATE: July 29, 2002.
PLACE: Dhaka University.
DESCRIPTION: Seriously injured journalists from Dhaka University are taking to hospital. The journalists are severely beaten by police.
DATE: March 01 2003.
Name: Rafikul Hasan Tuhin
Personnel: Journalist Of Daily Janakantha.
PLACE : Hobigonj.
DESCRIPTION: Hobigonj correspondent of the daily Janakantha, Tuhin was assaulted by a group of armed cadres of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami. They caught him and chopped with sharp weapons in city’s commercial area at that night. They also broke his motor-bike. Eventually, he got admitted in a local hospital. Tuhin informed that, this attack is a sequel of his reporting of the rape of a girl by Jammat activists. After publishing that report he was threatened by those goons for several times.
DATE: April 30, 2003.
Name: Atahar Siddiq Khosru
PLACE: Sitakondo, Chittagong
Personel: Journalist Of Daily Ittefaq
DESCRIPTION: Khosru, president of the Sitakunda Press Club and local correspondent of the Daily Ittefaq, was abducted on the night of April 30.Mahmudul Haq, editor and publisher of a local magazine, was arrested in Dhaka on May 6 on charge of xtortion. Sitakunda BNP General Secretary Nurul Islam allegedly threatened Khosru with dire consequences if he (Khosru) helped bail Mahmudul Haq out of the extortion charge. The threat came before Khosru was abducted. Mahmudul Haq was arrested after the local BNP leader filed the case of extortion against him following his reports on corruption of local politicians and police.
Islamic groups threaten dozens of journalists in Bangladesh
New York, July 13, 2004-
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by the rapidly growing number of death threats against journalists and writers throughout Bangladesh. Since July 10, at least 24 journalists and writers have received death threats, all apparently from Islamic groups who accuse them of being "enemies of Islam" or "acting against Islam," according to local news reports and CPJ sources. Journalists in the northeastern city of Sylhet, the southern district of Barguna, and in the capital, Dhaka, received individual letters on Saturday, July 10, containing death threats and accusing them of not being Muslim, calling them "enemies of Islam." The letters also advised them to "get ready-you will die within a month," according to the English-language Daily Star. On Sunday, July 11, an Islamic group calling itself the Mujahideen al-Islam issued public death threats to newspapers in Dhaka identifying 10 other individuals as "sinners... among those the Koran ordains to kill," according to local press reports and CPJ sources. Among the threatened individuals were Shahriar Kabir and Professor Muntasir Mamun, both known for their writing against Islamic fundamentalists.
"This unprecedented outbreak of death threats against the press highlights yet again the pervasive nature of impunity in Bangladesh," said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. "We call on the government to track down and punish those responsible for these criminal acts against the journalism community."
Names of threatened journalists :
In Syhlet, 15 journalists received threatening letters on July 10, according to local news reports: local correspondents Ahmed Noor and Partha Sarathi Das, of the Bangla-language national daily Prothom Alo; correspondent Liakat Shah Faridi, from the Bangla-language national daily Jugantar; local correspondent Al Azad, from the Bangla-langauge Sangbad; local correspondent Ajoy Pal, from the Bangla-language Bangla Bazar Patrika; local reporter Kamkamur Razzak Runu, from the Banglalanguage daily Ajker Kagoj; and staff reporter Salam Mashrur, from the Banglalanguage daily Janakantha.
Others who received the letters in Syhlet include Shyamol Sylhet Editor Chowdhury Mumtaj Ahmed, News Editor Abdul Mukit, and staff reporter Motiul Bari Khuhrshed; Jugobheri Editor-in-Charge Aziz Ahmed Selim and News Editor Tapash Dash Purokayastho; Ajker Kagoj District Correspondent Apurbo Dhar; Bhorer Kagoj District Correspondent Bappa Ghose Chowdhury; and Manavjamin Staff Reporter MA Rahim.
In Dhaka, Prothom Alo crime reporter Parvez Khan and Bhorer Kagoj local correspondent Ikhtiar Uddin also received death threat letters on July 10. In the southern Barguna District, five more journalists were threatened by an unnamed Islamic group on July 10, according to local news reports and CPJ sources.
Prothom Alo local correspondent M. Jasim Uddin received a threatening letter containing a small piece of a burial shroud, according to The Daily Star. The letter also mentioned threats against the Bangla-language daily Ittefaq local correspondent Abdul Alim Himu, Jugantor local reporter Anwar Hossain Monwar, Sangbad local correspondent Chittyaranajan Shil, and Ajker Kagoj local reporter Hasanur Rahman Jhantu.
Committee to Protect Journalists 330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 465-1004
Fax: (212) 465-9568 Web: www.cpj.org E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Abi Wright
Telephone: (212) 465-1004 x140
CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information about press conditions in Bangladesh, visit www.cpj.org.
5) PERSECUTION OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
Per Amnesty International 2004 Report (Bangladesh), “From October 2001 onwards, Islamist groups embarked on a campaign of hate speech against members of the Ahmadiyya community and marched on their places of worship in Dhaka and other parts of the country, calling on the government to declare them non- Muslim.
On 31 October, Shah Alam, the Imam of the Ahmadi mosque in the village of Raghanathpur Bank in Jessore District, was beaten to death in front of his family. Some 90 men led by a local Islamist leader attacked him because he refused their demand to recant his Ahmadiyya faith. No one was charged in connection with the killing even though the assailants identities were known.”
These terrorists have been encouraged by the Government when it decided to ban Ahmadiya literature from the country, albeit against the constitutional guarantee for freedom of religion and expression.
The manner in which the Police Administration in Chittagong on May 28 2004 painted in black the sign board of a Ahmaddiya Mosque is yet another instance of acts and omissions of the Alliance Government encouraging and promoting religious intolerance.
In Bashkhali eleven members of a joint Hindu family were burned to death by terrorists patronised by the local Alliance MP, also a Minister in the current Government. (Appendix II) Amnesty International report dated 1st December 2001 states :
“The killing of a prominent member of the Hindu community appears to be connected to the current wave of attacks on Hindus. On 16 November, Gopal Krishna Muhuri, Principal of Nazirhat College in Chittagong was shot dead at his home. Four gunmen posing as members of the police detective branch came to his house, called him to come to the door and fired two shots at his head which killed him instantly.
The circumstances surrounding his killing point to the strong possibility that he was targeted because of his identity as a prominent Hindu with a successful career in the educational establishment of Chittagong city.”
In Mahalchari in the Chittagong Hill Tracts tribal families were killed and left homeless as the law enforcing
agencies sat idly by. The BNP-Jamaat Alliance Government has not pursued any of these cases in right earnest and nothing, not surprisingly, has come out of the investigations.
Police in Chittagong on May 28 2004 paint in black the sign board of a Ahmaddiya Mosque Gopal Krishna Muhuri Baniarchar Church (Gopalganj) after the Bomb Blast – Christian community have not been spared either.
CHARRED FATE OF RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN BANGLADESH
“In an apparently planned arson attack on a Hindu family in Banskhali Upazila near Chittagong around midnight on 19 November 2003, 11 members of the family were burned to death. The government called it an act of banditry, but evidence suggested it was a motivated attack against the family because of their
identification as Hindus. Police filed a case but despite repeated demands from civil society groups, no independent inquiry was set up.”
- Amnesty International 2004 Report: Bangladesh
6) ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS ON SHEIKH HASINA
The timing of the grenade throw is generally agreed to be around 5-22 pm. Prime Minister of Bangladesh (1996-2001), President of Bangladesh Awami League, daughter of Father of the Nation, Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and current Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Sheikh Hasina left her Shuda Shadan residence at about 4-35 pm and there was the usual car arrangement. She was heading towards the venue in front of Bangladesh Awami League's central office to address a rally protesting recent bomb / grenade attacks as well as political killings and terrorism generally in the country.
Her bullet-proof car was preceded by a police pilot vehicle with 8 uniformed policemen. Her vehicle was followed by first a police pick-up with 6 gunmen and a driver in civil dress of the Special Branch. Then there were two Pajero jeeps with her personal staff. The last in the carcade was the rear pilot vehicle of uniformed policemen. She arrived at the place of the rally in front of the AL office at about 4-55 pm. She alighted from the car at a distance of about 10 feet and mounted the truck. A table was there at the back of the truck just next to the stair case and she started in about a few minutes to address the gathering standing in front of the table. At about 5-20 pm she finished speaking and announced that the procession would start.
The gathering for the procession was at zero point. Those around the truck took position to move towards the zero point.
She made a move to alight from the truck. Her vehicle was parked now close to the truck, may be 5/6 feet. Some photo journalist (Gorky of Jugantar) made an appeal for a snap-shot and she obliged him. Just then there was the first blast just between the truck and her car, where the ladies were milling for the procession to start. Everyone on the truck bent their knees and heads and her staff pushed her down also when in 2/3 seconds the second and the third grenades blasted. One was by the side of the truck where the table was placed. Another was just behind her vehicle.
Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina addressing the rally
immediately before the grenade attack on August 21. Ivy Rahman in the valley of death and debris Lance Corporal Mahbub of her security squad have his own life to save Sheikh Hasina led by Mamun, Hanif, Maya and Najeeb the first attempt to alight the truck began. Then there were few more blasts and they halted with head down momentarily on the mouth of the stairs. One grenade blasted on the other side of the truck and another near the AL office, at a spot equidistant from the truck and the bullet-proof vehicle. Quickly the next move was made because Shoaib noticed that the fuel tank of the truck was hit and oil leaked from it. Mamun led her to the staircase and Shoaib took charge of the situation as she came down from the stairs.
Guarded by a human shield she entered the car and took her seat (it is the front seat near the driver). General
Siddiqi, who was standing by the car, Shoaib and Mamun got into the vehicle with her. Others who managed to climb into the car were Najeeb and Maya, who were part of the shield.
While the door of the car was opened for her it seems that a couple of grenade pellets found their way into it.
The tire of the car was possibly hit by pellets from the third grenade. There was sniper shooting at the car
as it left the scene of attack, more than ten rounds perhaps. The window on her side was shot at twice and the back window five times. The vehicle was also struck by grenade pellets. Mahbub, one of her personal staff, was protecting her in the shield and he was felled by a bullet near her vehicle, not by a “large splinter”.
Jahangir, personal attendant of Sheikh Hasina, could not enter the car from the back because no one noticed him or could hear his calls.
He went for the SB pick-up, found the vehicle empty and the keys on the driving wheel. He jumped into the driver’s seat and started the vehicle. He then noticed Alamgir ASI of SB huddled injured in the vehicle. Alamgir was on the truck during the first round of blasts but he was not around when she alighted the car.
Jahangir followed the vehicle of Sheikh Hasina and reached home behind her vehicle. Neither the pilot vehicle nor the vehicles of the personal security team could join them.
At Shuda Shadan once Sheikh Hasina was safe the companions noticed bloodstains on clothes of each other and discovered that all of them have been injured in different degrees by grenade pellets.
It was the general perception that all the grenades were thrown from some nearby rooftops. Some security people were also pointing upwards with their guns. They came to protest against terror but returned its victim. Had it exploded the death toll would have been higher.
With the noise of shooting all around it is difficult to make a correct estimate of how many grenades were actually used in the attack. Most people could count the first three. Then as they tried to save themselves and huddled down they heard three more. The first three blasts were perhaps in 3/5 seconds.
With a gap of possibly a few more seconds the next three went off also within 3/5 seconds. How many others were blasted is not very clear. One blast came with a little gap and it was at a distance from the centre of the crowd. This was perhaps to facilitate the flight of the miscreants.
How could a commando styled attack be launched in the heart of Dhaka city in the presence of literally hundreds of police l and an equal number of intelligence agency personnel without some level of complicity or involvement of the Administration ?
The steps taken by the authorities just after the attack support this apprehension. Instead of apprehending the perpetrators from scene of the attack, the police were ordered to fire tear gas shells and resort to beatings of the supporters to disperse them and in effect create a smoke screen to enable the attackers to get away. This was then followed by destruction of evidence that could have proved critical had it been preserved for forensics. From the crime scene (which the Government never made any attempt to secure, thus contaminating and polluting whatever evidence there might have been), four unexploded grenades were recovered and although all four grenades still had their safety levers on and presented no risk, these were detonated by the Army four hours after the attack on the rally.
Chronicle of attempts on Sheikh Hasina life
"If a person is afraid of death, life has no dignity," Sheikh Hasina had told Newsweek way back on May 11, 1981 when she was elected president of the Awami League (AL) while in exile.
She had also said she was neither afraid of being killed nor deterred by the strength of the government she would face. "In one's life," she said, "Risks must be taken..." "One of my priorities will be to restore the full democratic rights of all the people of the nation," Sheikh Hasina had told the magazine a few days after her return on May 17.
Since then, Sheikh Hasina has come under attack several times, but her party leaders said the velocity of the assassination attempt had never been so intensified as it was on Saturday.
Earlier the severest attack she faced was on January 24, 1988 when police in Chittagong had fired on a procession she was leading. Over 24 people were killed in the police firing.
On August 11, 1989, a group of gunmen fired on Dhanmondi-32 house where she had lived at that time. The shooting, four days before August 15 mourning day, was believed to have been carried out by Freedom Party cadres. She also came under attack a day after the death anniversary of Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on August 16, 1983. Her house was attacked again on October 16, 1986.
Sheikh Hasina was targeted several times during anti-Ershad movement and one such occasion was during Dhaka blockade on September 28, 1984. Quoting newspaper reports, her party leaders said Sheikh Hasina's life also remained at stake after the fall of Ershad following a mass upsurge on December 6, 1990. Bullets were fired targeting her during a by-election in Dhanmondi in the capital on September 11, 1991. Unidentified gunmen shot at the bogie of the train she was journeying by on September 23, 1994.
On December 7, 1995, her rally at Russel Square came under gun attack. Also a bomb attack on her rally at Bongobondhu Avenue on March 7, 1996 left 30 people injured. Threats and attempts continued still after Sheikh Hasina led her party back to power after 21 years through June 12, 1996 general election under the constitutional caretaker government she fought for.
One young man, Anisul Bari, was arrested along with a revolver and 23 rounds of bullets while trying to enter her meeting at Ramna on January 6, 1997. Detectives arrested 17 Jubo Command cadres while they were holding a meeting for planning to assassinate her in the name of an iftar party on January 30, 1997.
Several bombs were exploded in front of the Prime Minister's Office on April 26, 1999. A big bomb was planted at her meeting venue at Kotalipara on July 21, 2000. As Sheikh Hasina was addressing an election meeting at Sylhet Alia Madrasa ground on September 25, a bomb blew off, killing two of her party supporters.
Khaled, a man a cousin of Faruq Rahman, principal accused in the Bongobondhu killing case, tried to knife her while she was visiting Naogaon on March 4, 2002. Her motorcade came under attack in Satkhira on August 29 the same year. In 2004, she and her party leaders came under attack at Barisal ferry ghat on
February 26 and at Gournadi on April 2. She received a life threat while staying in Turkey on July 5 this year. And, lately it was a close call on August 21.
UNABATED SMUGGLING OF ARMS & EXPLOSIVES BOGRA:
It is now evident that the huge stock of arms and ammunition captured in Kahalu, Bogra on 28 June 2003 was only a tip of the ice-berg. A cache of more than one hundred thousand bullets of SLR, machineguns, AK-47 rifles and 180 Kg. explosives was accidentally discovered by the local Police. But from the very beginning importance of this incident was ignored by the Government. Within 24 hours of capturing the shipment Government began to blame the targeted political party, Awami League.
The Government was clearly trying to mislead the investigation made by professionals. But media reports
focused attention on the central point of truth. The Government barred media access to the area and the facts of the case and went to the extent of threatening two electronic TV channels, namely Channel I and ATN
Bangla for their accurate/factual reporting of the story. Bogra district police also harassed and threatened local correspondents of national media. Even then the media men tried their best in search of the truth.
Such serious incidentsare a clear threat for security and sovereignty of Bangladesh. But the Government seems to take a relaxed view of the matter. So the inevitable question is, for what reasons or to save whom does the Government refuse to take actual initiative to focus the truth?
In the early hours of 1 April 2004 ten truckloads of arms were unloaded from two trawlers at the (protected and restricted) jetty of Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Factory, a government owned enterprise with foreign participation. It was the largest ever cache of sophisticated arms smuggled into Bangladesh that has been recovered.
Kahalu, Bogra - A stack of the ammunitions that the local Police “stumbled into”.
>From the beginning the government was unwilling to direct a serious and neutral investigation. Statements by Ministers and officials instantly delivered loudly canvassed that the Opposition was connected with it and it was a part of the opposition agitation for unseating the Alliance rule.
Despite specific reporting in the media as to who might be involved and the apparent complicity of senior members of the Cabinet including the Advisor on Parliamentary Affairs to the Prime Minister, there has been no progress in the investigations. This obviously begs the question as to what is it that the BNP-Jamaat Alliance are nervous about or trying to conceal – links with extremist groups who enjoy the active support, protection and patronage of Jamaat, an Alliance partner? Attention was diverted from the real culprits of the serious misadventure and steps for investigation were slow and shoddy as if to leave all incidents inconclusive. Awami League asked for an international expert team to carry out the investigation of such a sinister smuggling operation, but the government would not listen. If the arms are for use in the country, then it is important to find out which are the groups bringing them in; who are financing the arms deal; and what are the sources. In this incident, investigative reporting in the national media puts forward the fact that high level Members and leaders of the ruling Alliance appear clearly involved.
The scene of occurrence too was secure and protected public sector jetties - a key point installation.
Further, the cargoes were being discharged with assistance of, and under supervision of the law-enforcing agents. Thus it raises serious questions of complicity on an issue as grave as that of territorial integrity of
Bangladesh and regional stability. While the government continues its rebuttal of allegations, from within the country and without, of the presence of religious extremism-driven clandestine organisations in Bangladesh, physical evidences testifying to their truth have begun to manifest themselves in an alarming and regular fashion. Recovered arms being unloaded, supervised by the Army Some of the weapons that formed part of the Chittagong consignment
Kuril, Badda, Dhaka - 01 December 2003
The above are just two instances of recent arms haul that have been detected and have been cited here as instances. There are numerous other instances, as for instance in Kuril, Badda - in close proximity to the USA Embassy in Baridhara - on 01 December 2003 when AK-47 rifles, grenades / explosives and ammunition, all in ready to use condition, were recovered from a shop reportedly owned by a local BNP leader. Government has failed to investigate conclusively all cases of arms illegally brought into the country for use in Bangladesh or even possible transfer to other countries. The same failure to investigate applies to various bomb blast incidents too. It is a reasonable assumption that only a small portion of the smuggling is detected; therefore, the actual quantity smuggled into and through the country is undoubtedly substantial.
The strong likelyhood of a clear link between the unabated smuggling of arms and explosives into the country and the increasing frequency of bomb explosions as well as political assassinations simply cannot be disregarded.
EMERGENCE OF EXTREMIST GROUPS UNDER PATRONAGE OF RULING BNP-JAMAT ALLIANCE
We also notice an exponential growth in emergence of extremist groups all over the country. These extremist groups are well trained as killers and are in possession of sophisticated weapons. They are reported to have links with the administration and intelligence agencies besides having godfathers among the partners of the ruling junta, who protect them. These groups exist in various names in various regions but they have the same mission – to plunder, to kill and to terrorize the minority communities, secular sections of the society and the AL and other opposition forces.
The foolowing terrorists outfits actively operate in Bangladesh today under patronage of the ruling BNP Jamaat coalition and all these organizations have been linked to some BNP leaders or Jamat at some point or other:
• Bangla Bhai in the northern region;
• Tigers in Sylhet; Jana Juddha in Khulna and Jessore;
• Jamatul Mujahedin in Dinajpur, Joypurhat, Jamalpur & Bagerhat;
• Shahadate Hikma in Rajshahi and Chapai Nawabganj, Hijbut Towhid in Barisal, Madaripur, Jhenidah, Narayanganj and Gopalganj
• Al Jamatul Islamia in Faridpur, Magura and Madaripur
A small community of Ahmadiyyas has been living in Bangladesh for many decades peacefully and without any troubles. But under the benign disposition of the ruling junta many organizations such as Khatme Nabuyat, Islami Shashontantra Andolon, Islamic Oikya Jote (member of the ruling four party coalition) and Amra Dhakabashi have mushroomed overnight with the sole purpose of exterminating the Ahmadiyas.
They are invariably patronized by ruling parties or powerful leaders of the ruling junta. These extremist groups have been running training camps for terrorists all over the country. Many of them were exposed such as in Dinajpur, districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cox’s Bazar, and hilly areas of Chittagong district, Shariatpur, Barguna, Sylhet, Rajshahi and Jamalpur.
But these are neither closed nor are the terrorists brought to book. It is generally believed that these extremist groups are linked to international terrorism. A Failed Government The government cannot unearth the planners and players in any serious case nor can they establish motivation for the crimes. They cannot catch culprits and criminals who have made a mockery of security of life and property.
The extremist groups and the incidents of violence are spiraling simply because the government is not interested in checking their activities or curbing their terrorism.
None of the bomb blasts or none of the killings by the extremists are properly investigated. Government leaders with a view to divert attention from the real culprits peremptorily put the accusing finger at the opposition. And the police unnecessarily harass AL workers and supporters and apply mediaeval third degree methods with sophisticated modern gadgets to extract confessional statements. At the end no culprits are found and goons are allowed to flee the scene of occurrence or even the country.
Let us consider the Mymensingh cinema hall bomb-blasts. They incarcerated AL leaders (Mukul Bose, AL Joint Secretary, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Political secretary to Leader of the Opposition and Organising Secretary of AL, Shafi Ahmed, Assistant Secretary AL and the entire AL District Committee of Mymensingh) journalists and intellectuals (Muntasir Mamun, Shahriar Kabir, Enamul Haque Chowdhury) for the incident but finally nothing could be proved against them and the actual culprits were allowed to escape. A "confession" implicating AL leadership in the Mymensingh bomb blasts was extracted from journalist Enamul Haque Chowdhury by repeatedly beating and torturing him and putting a gun to his head - this confession was subsequently retracted by Enam by filing a petition to the Court after his release from prison at directive of the High Court. In Sylhet they emboldened the terrorists by neglecting to go after them even when they disgraced the nation by attacking the British High Commissioner. In sum the BNP-Jamat junta have turned a blind eye towards violence because it is directed against their opponents. They have patronized the criminals and let loose thousands of them who were under detention. They even helped the criminals by diverting attention to other quarters. Any time there has been an incident of violence BNP leaders and even the Prime Minister has pointed the accusing finger at the AL or the intelligentsia that is supportive of AL values.
The extremist groups have not only been patronized by the ruling junta but also given a free hand to perpetrate a reign of terror in their own domains. Their international links have never even been questioned or probed into and dismissed as propaganda against the image of the government. Even the import of large cachet of arms and explosives have not been stopped because they benefit BNP traders and arms smugglers and extremist groups that owe allegiance to the ruling junta.
They have turned the police force into an armed cadre of the ruling junta who are not bothered at all about rules and regulations. They do not also honour the injunctions of the Supreme Court. The former Inspector General of Police, who heads the police force, was convicted by the Hon’ble Court for contempt but the junta decided to extend his services in order retain him in his job. Ideally the Government is the only lawful authority to manage violence in a country in order to ensure public safety and order and territorial security.
But in Bangladesh the present ruling junta is directly involved in managing private terror and they use law-enforcing agents to support and shelter that terror in the country.
"BANGLA BHAI SYNDROME"
The "Bangla Bhai Syndrome" has been causing widespread concern and anguish. Bangla Bhai, a terrorist and an advocate of Taliban style rule, reportedly operates with a following of 300,000 activists in the country. In April 2004, with a nod from the police and open political patronage of the ruling BNP Jamaat Alliance, this militant religious group called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) surfaced publicly on the plea of tackling in their words, some other terrorist groups in the area.
Taking law into their own hands Bangla Bhai and his followers went on a rampage - killing, hanging, beating, torturing and maiming people at will and striking terror in the region. Villagers, top left, pull the body of an alleged outlaw cut into pieces allegedly by Bangla Bhai's men near its camp in Naogaon; shocked relatives, top right, cry after the body was dug out; the house, bottom left, of landowner Jagannath in Bogra damaged by Bangla Bhai's cadres for refusal to pay tolls; and buyers, bottom right, log the tree felled and sold by Islamic militants. "Bangla Bhai" Body of Badshah, bludgeoned to death by “Bangla Bhai” militants, dangles upside down from a roadside tree. The Taliban styled militants announced publicly the day before that the execution would take place the next day. A burst of media attention and public outrage forced the government to announce measures to tackle this extremist terrorist and at one point the Prime Minister herself also ordered his arrest. A week after the Prime Minister’s directive, allegedly sheltered by a section of law-enforcing agency, he is still at large with blessing of Alliance leadership.
27 May 2004 - This image captures the physical, inhuman and merciless torture being administered on a victim after he is tied up.
13 May 2004 - Bagmara, Rajshahi :- Khobir, Jewel, Rahidul and Shiblee - four more victims of Bangla Bhai torture who have been mauled, battered and maimed with hockey sticks, bricks and sharp objects in special torture camps of Bangla Bhai.
Wasim (left), yet another victim of armed cadres of Bangla Bhai (right) moving about freely in the streets after the killing - 01 April 2004, Bagmara, Rajshahi.
"Victims of Torture" carried out by “Bangla Bhai” and his activists. 31 May 2004 - “Daily Jugantor”
The Media on "Bangla Bhai" – Extracts
Although he is proving apparently elusive now and despite an apparent order from the Prime Minister herself has not been arrested, “Bangla Bhai” was in fact arrested by the Police on 17th August 2002 in Boro Gowla village under Mollarhat Upazilla, Bagerghat District for attempting to murder Mr. Topon Poddar, President of Boro Gowla Union Awami League, and his daughter.
(Criminal Case No. 10 and GR No. 116/02).
Tapon Poddar, President of Boro Gowla Union Awami League, attacked by "Bangla Bhai", operating as Jamaatul Mujahideen in August 2002; recovered weapons & Arabic language leaflets; "Bangla Bhai" on the extreme left, along with extremists arrested by the Police and subsequently released.
"Bangla Bhai" was arrested, as Siddiqur Islam Promanik and as a member of Jamaatul Mujahideen from house of one Hikmat Mollah and Police recovered from his possession masks, swords, police belts and boots and a diary when he was arrested.
(From the above it is very apparent that the terrorist network of extremists operating currently in Bangladesh have extremely close linkages between themselves and are in fact all part of one major terrorist network operating in different areas under various identities, such as Jamaatul Majhideen, Jagroto Muslim Janata Bangladesh, Harkatul Jihad, Shahadat – E Al Hiqma, Hizbuth Tawhid, Jihadi Party, Al Jamatul Islamia etc. One aspect though is very clear – all these groups enjoy the active support and patronage of Jamaat Islami, Bangladesh and the ruling BNP Jamaat Alliance. The fact that Islamic Oikya Jote, an important component of Four Party Alliance, publicly voiced its support for ”Bangla Bhai” in a media briefing on 31 May 2004, merely confirms this statement).
The inaction of the Administration in arresting “Bangla Bhai” is matched by its cooperation in releasing on 02 June 2004 from custody in Atrai Thana, after arrest, Hemayet Hossain Himu, second in command of Bangla Bhai’s terrorist outfit. Although he was sent to jail after the arrest and spent three weeks in prison, Police astonishingly did not include his name in the charge sheet and he was released !
The above is a common and disturbing feature of numerous arrests made the Police of “extremists” over
the past two and half years. In almost all of the cases nothing is heard about the status of the enquiries and the whereabouts of those arrested.
It is assumed that as with Bangla Bhai above, all of them have been set free as per instruction of the Ruling
Alliance administration. “Bangla Bhai”, meaning a brother of or from Bangladesh, is apparently the nick name that was given to him by fellow terrorists when he was in Afghanistan and was responsible for acting as a group leader of people from Bangladesh.
The Daily Star, 6 May, 2004
Cops back jungle rule in northwest
A self-styled vigilante group kills people in the name of anti-outlaw operations, forcewomen to wear burka and men to grow beards all under direct police support By Staff Correspondent
In the northwest, he is the law. Women retreat at his approach, hurriedly covering up their head and face. Those who dare to differ with him know their mistakes the hard way in his torture cell. Azizur Rahman is his name, but he prefers to call himself Bangla Bhai, people call him 'the Terror' who leads a gang that wields guns openly and picks anybody up in full knowledge of police. In four northwestern districts, police are patronising Bangla Bhai and his organisation Jagrota Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), which has kicked off a drive to apparently 'cleanse' leftist outlaws amid allegations of enforcement of harsh Islamic codes and crimes against the vigilante group. A top police official yesterday said police stations in Rajshahi, Naogaon, Natore and Bogra were asked to support the group in its mission, but locals accused its members of meting out harsher punishment to 'their suspects' and women violating 'their dress codes'.
The group operatives are painting women with their navels exposed with black, randomly assaulting people terming them as Sarbahara men, extorting protection money and forcing men to wear beards and women to put on burka, villagers in the region alleged.
They said they were fearful of the activities of the group and its 'supremo' Azizur Rahman, but Aziz denied all the charges. The JMJB, which launched the anti-extremist war in April in the region crawling with the outlawed operatives, has allegedly killed seven people and assaulted hundreds of others who oppose them, terming them as Sarbahara men.
Noor Mohammad, divisional inspector general of police (DIG), Rajshahi, told The Daily Star yesterday that Aziz and his men were assisting the law enforcers in tracking down the outlaws. "We've asked police stations to support them whenever they go to catch outlaws."
Aziz launched the organisation on April 1 this year and claims that the group by now commands 300,000 activists across the country. "Our goal is to root out Sarbahara men and corruption from society, seize illegal
weapons and establish the ideal of the Rasul (Prophet Hazrat Mohammed (SA)," he recently told Hasibur Rahman Bilu, Borga correspondent of The Daily Star.
On the JMJB's sources of income, he said, "People from all rungs of society are generously paying us funds, no-one is pressurised for money. If someone happily makes a donation, there's no problem."
The Daily Star, 13 May, 2004
Bangla Bhai active for 6 yrs
His outfit spreads tentacles to establish Taliban-like rule
Julfikar Ali Manik, back from Rajshahi
Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) of so-called Bangla Bhai has been active underground for the last six years to establish a Taliban-like rule, although the Islamic militant outfit has grabbed the limelight only recently. The JMJB idealises extremist Islamic leaders and scholars, follows the militant ideals of the routed Taliban of Afghanistan and spearheads a movement based on jihad, JMJB leaders and other people in the northwest told The Daily Star. To reach their goal, the JMJB with three tiers of workers trained about 10,000 fulltime activists across the country and spends up to Tk 700,000 on them a month. The activists have orchestrated over 100 operations in different regions, which came to be known as vigilante activities of different hues, including murders and attacks on people who they believe have committed crime. The outfit is blamed for killing at least five people and torturing several others since April 1. Although newspapers portrayed him as the main leader of the anti-outlaw vigilante group, Bangla Bhai is one of the seven members of JMJB's highest decision-making body, Majlish-e-Shura.
Rahman who heads the highest tier of JMJB moved from his Jamalpur home to Bagmara in Rajshahi after JMJB activities came to light. The first tier of the outfit has activists called "Ehsar" who are recruited on a full-time basis and act at the directive of higher echelons, the amir said. The second tier, "Gayeri Ehsar", has over one lakh part-time activists. The third tier involves those who indirectly cooperate with the JMJB.
"We divided Bangladesh into nine organisational divisions," Rahman said. Khulna, Barisal, Sylhet and Chittagong have an organisational divisional office each. Dhaka has two JMJB divisional offices and Rajshahi three. " We would like to serve people and serve them in line with Hilful Fuzul (a social organisation founded by Prophet Mohammad (SM) to serve the destitute). We try to awaken people's religious feelings to establish their links with the creator," Rahman says. The JMJB has strong bases in Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Jessore, Chittagong, Joypurhat, Rangpur and Bogra and spread its network to most madrasas and other educational institutions in the districts.
The JMJB Amir worked at the Saudi embassy in Dhaka between 1985 and 1990. He studied at Madina Islamic University is Saudi Arabia and travelled to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, among other countries. As recently as last year, he went to Pakistan.
"We don't have direct links with the Taliban either. The Taliban wanted to establish the ideals of Allah. They did their part with courage," he said. Asked if the JMJB idealises the Taliban, he said: "Our model includes many leaders and scholars of Islam. But we will take as much (ideology) from the Taliban as we need."
"We don't believe in the present political trend. We want to build a society based on the Islamic model laid out in Holy Quran-Hadith," Bangla Bhai said. Asked to clarify his model, he said, "Just wait and see."
The Daily Star, 16 May,2004
Villagers nab 19 Bangla Bhai men
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi
Villagers foiled an operation of the dreaded Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) at Kalupara in Paba upazila of the district on Friday night, caught 19 armed operatives of the Islamic militant outfit and handed them over to Paba Police Station. The villagers recovered a number of lethal and sharp weapons, 12 hockey sticks, two iron rods and 10 motorcycles from the militants. But police filed a general diary and produced the JMJB operatives in court, showing them arrested under Section 54. They told journalists at the thana hajat that they went to the village on the directive of Bangla Bhai. Sources said a group of about 25 JMJB cadres riding motorcycles went to Kalupara village and forcibly entered the house of Anisur Rahman. They beat up Anisur's wife Maleka Begum and asked her to get her son admitted to a madrassah. Anisur's brother Ahsan Habib announced over the loudspeaker at the village-mosque that dacoits attacked their house. Thousands of people from the village and other villages nearby, equipped with various weapons rushed to the spot, surrounded the house and caught 19 militants.
The 19 JMJB cadres include Abdur Rahman Bipul, Shahidul Islam, Rafiqul Islam, Ahsan Habib, Mustafa, Mokhlesur Rahman, Chanchal, Ruhul Amin, Manjur Rahman, Mizanur Rahman, Altaf Ali, Hafez Mofazzal Hossain, Mantu, Yasin Ali, Shamsur Rahman, Altaf Ali and Aminul Islam.
The Daily Star, 18 May,2004
Arrest order wrapped in confusion
New JMJB camp opens in Naogaon
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi
Confusion wraps the order to arrest dreaded operations commander Bangla Bhai of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), as police stations did not get any instruction what the deputy inspector general (DIG) in Rajshahi yesterday said was issued. In the wake of the Islamic outfit's militant activities, the home ministry on Sunday said it ordered police to arrest Bangla Bhai, blamed for killing five underground outlaws in the northwest in vigilante action since April 1. A senior police official told The Daily Star, asking not to be named, that arresting the lynchpin or stopping his militant activities turned impossible for police, as he said the JMJB is sponsored by an influential quarter.
The Daily Star, 20 May, 2004
Bangla Bhai men slaughter 2 today
Invite villagers over loudspeaker to attend execution; Naogaon SP unaware
Our Correspondent, Bogra
Operatives of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) last night announced their latest vigilante action by loudspeaker to slaughter in public two villagers with apparent ties to an underground gang in Naogaon this morning. The Islamic militant outfit, blamed for killing at least five outlaws in the northwest since April 1, hounded Badshah and Bari of the banned Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) out of their homes and took them to its new camp in Kaligram Vetigram village in Atrai upazila.
The announcement that frightened villagers came as an apparent backlash two days after outlaws killed two cadres of the JMJB led by dreaded operations commander Bangla Bhai.The JMJB says the two deserve "death penalty" for their alleged involvement in killing a 'number of people'.
The JMJB asked its operatives in different camps to be present in Vetigram village to witness the punishment at 10:00am and called local reporters by cellphone to be on scene to cover it. Naogaon Superintendent of Police Fazlur Rahman told The Daily Star by phone last night that he had no information about the announcement. As this correspondent insisted, he said in exasperation: "Police are on alert. I don't know how you got this information."
The Daily Star, 21 May, 2004
In cold blood, they beat them dead
Bangla Bhai vigilantes carry out avowed murders of 3 outlaws; death moan relayed by loudspeaker; body of one found hanging from tree; police claim to be unaware of the events
In a show of cruelty beyond imagination, the Bangla Bhai outfit yesterday openly bludgeoned to death three alleged outlaws in an outlying village in Naogaon after hours of overnight announcement by loudspeaker of slaughter. The morning shock came as villagers found one of the bodies hanging upside down from a roadside tree in Bamongram village in Nandigram upazila of Bogra, not far away from the northwestern district of Naogaon. The rest were not found until 7:00pm although the militant operatives of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) led by dreaded operations commander Bangla Bhai boasted that they had also met the same fate. Police denied the latest episode of vigilante action despite repeated announcement of the lynching by loudspeaker and discovery of the body. The rough justice of the Islamist outfit, blamed for killing at least eight outlaws including yesterday's three since April 1, underlines the jungle rule in the northwest. Locals said they saw a gang of up to 12 coming in a white microbus from Kaliganj direction and moved back after hanging the body from the tree on Singra-Nandigram Road. The operatives named the victim Abdul Qaiyum, better known as Badshah Mia, son of Abdul Kader, and branded him as a top leader of the banned Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP). Witnesses said as a 'show of respect' to the villagers, who pleaded that the outlaws not be slaughtered, the JMJB death squad beat them dead. The tortured groans of the victims were relayed by loudspeaker to terrorise the neighbourhood. His legs tied, Badshah in lungi bore the hallmarks of torture in captivity. The Daily Star alerted Naogaon Superintendent of Police (SP) Fazlur Rahman late Wednesday night that the vigilante outfit captured four 'outlaws' and was planning to slaughter them in public in the morning. The SP said he or his force had no information about such a lynching scheme and brushed aside The Daily Star's information as baseless. But the villagers will not forget the grisly scene they witnessed as scores of operatives beat them up with hockey sticks and poles for hours in Kaligram Vetigram village in Atrai of Naogaon. Hundreds of people flocked to the scene as the news spread before Nandigram police recovered the body of Badshah and sent it to Bogra town for autopsy. Hours after the killings, the SP in Naogaon and Additional SP Harunar Rashid told The Daily Star that they were not aware of such news. The JMJB men denied killing anyone yesterday and told journalists that angry relatives of the slain victims and other local people killed the three outlaws. They expressed their ignorance about the missing bodies. "I don't know what the agitated people have done to them," a JMJB leader said.
The Daily Star, 23 May, 2004
Govt divided over Bangla Bhai arrest
Some ministers and ruling BNP policymakers strongly favour the killer group activities
The government is sharply divided over whether to arrest Bangla Bhai, dreaded operations commander of Islamist outfit Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) blamed for killing at least eight outlaws in the country's northwest since April 1. Highly placed sources said the dilemma has stalled the execution of a home ministry order to arrest JMJB chief Azizul Islam alias Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai. The self-styled vigilante outfit bludgeoned to death three alleged leftist outlaws in Naogaon last week and is preparing 'to punish' seven more people including a former legislator and four union parishad chairmen.
Some senior ministers and ruling BNP policymakers strongly favour Bangla Bhai's arrest on the grounds that there cannot be a private force parallel to the lawenforcement agencies to launch an anti-outlaw drive.
"Whatever this Bangla Bhai is doing is totally illegal because the law does not permit his actions. On one hand, it proves that the government has failed and on the other, it is ruining the image of the country. Consequence of such a militant force will be dreadful," said an influential cabinet minister, on condition of anonymity. Some other BNP leaders, mostly from greater Rajshahi region, however, have been opposing the home ministry order since its issuance and supporting the Bangla Bhai outfit all the way. Allegations are there that a cabinet minister, a deputy minister and several lawmakers hailing from greater Rajshahi region are backing Bangla Bhai. They maintain that local people have welcomed Bangla Bhai and his men since
police have completely failed to tame the outlaws in the northwest.
A top home ministry official told The Daily Star yesterday, wishing anonymity, that the order to arrest Bangla Bhai is not being implemented due to heavy pressure against the arrest. Home ministry officials also said they have information that besides the local ministers and lawmakers, some Islamic organisations and ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami's local units are indirectly supporting Bangla Bhai. A home ministry official quoting intelligence reports said that two religion-based parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, are not only backing the JMJB and Bangla Bhai, but also helping the Islamist outfit with manpower and light weapons.
The Daily Star, 24 May,2004
Police escort JMJB in Rajshahi showdown
Bangla Bhai militants threaten journos with death, meet DC, SP, DIG
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi
Several thousand activists of Islamist death squad Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) armed with bamboo poles and hockey sticks staged a showdown under police escort in Rajshahi city yesterday afternoon, threatening journalists with death. JMJB men on hundreds of motorbikes, three microbuses, 60 buses and half a dozen trucks powered into the city at 3:00pm in deviation of their earlier announcement that the
rally would be held in the morning.
The killer group came down heavily on journalists in two meetings at Shaheb Bazar Zero point and Gourhanga Rail Crossing and handed over memoranda to Deputy Commissioner (DC) Aziz Hasan, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Noor Muhammad, Superintendent of Police (SP) Masud Mia of Rajshahi. The memoranda protested 'fabricated reports by a section of the media and several political parties'. The JMJB leaders threatened to kill journalists for 'misreporting'. The first rally of the JMJB was addressed by the chairman of Pakuria union parishad and Bagmara BNP Joint Secretary Besharat Ullah, among others. Earlier, they laid siege to the deputy commissioner's office for half an hour since 3.30pm. On the support of several lawmakers to the JMJB, the memorandum said the lawmakers' names were published to harm their popularity. "All political leaders including ministers and lawmakers irrespective of parties are supporting us," it said. The SP welcomed the team and said, "We (police) hail you (JMJB) as you are helping us eliminate the Sarbaharas (outlaws) from Rajshahi. We must cooperate with you in the coming days so that people can rest without fear."
Tue. January 25, 2005
Bid to protest lynching of 3 JMJB cadres by mob
50 injured as Bangla Bhai's men clash with police
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi :
At least 50 people, including eight policemen, were injured in clashes between police and Bangla Bhailed
Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) at Bhabaniganj in Bagmara yesterday noon. Bangla bhai cadres, riding on motorbikes wielding lethal weapons, show down in Rajshahi under police escort.
On the same day, scores of cadres join the show down who came to Rajshahi from adjacent areas on buses.
Reinforcements from the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), the Rajshahi police line and three neighbouring
police stations were involved in the clashes, which ensued after police foiled a JMJB attempt to organise
a procession in protest against the lynching of three JMJB men on Saturday night.
Police rounded up 64 JMJB cadres for clashing with police, but did not detain any of the leaders who led
the attacks. Tear gas shells, rubber bullets and brickbats were used during the clashes, police said. A curfew-like situation now prevails at Bagmara following the incident, as police and Rab forces patrol the region and the streets remain deserted. The injured policemen include Golam Kibria, officer in charge of the Bagmara police station, Sub Inspector (SI) Salauddin, SI Mahbub Hossain, SI Sanaullah, SI Monirul, ASI Zahangir, Havildar Poritosh and constable Ershadul. Since being barred for the first time by law enforcement agencies, JMJB men have started gathering arms and recruiting armed cadres from different parts of the country, sources said. The sources last evening witnessed some JMJB leaders vowing to retaliate for the lynching and to battle against law enforcement agencies if the situation demands.
"I heard one of our leaders calling upon his senior to come to Bagmara immediately with heavy arms for the retaliation. He vowed to fight with police and the Rab," said a source inside the JMJB. Ordered by their leaders, JMJB cadres from different upazilas and even from Naogaon and Natore started gathering in the morning at Sikdari, Hamirkutsa, Talgharia, Goalkandi, Taherpur, Jhikra and Jhargram.
By noon, with their number reaching several thousands, they gathered at the Bhabaniganj Boys' High School field and chanted slogans against the lynching of their three fellows. 'We'll not let the blood of the martyrs go unpunished.' 'The administration should answer for killing our people.' 'Blood for blood,' were the slogans used by the agitating JMJB men, sources said. Police intercepted them using batons as they brought out the procession at the school gate. JMJB men retaliated with bricks and stones.
"We asked them not to move for the criminals, but they did not heed us," said OC Kibria, speaking by cell phone. He added that the clashes lasted for half an hour. He said police lobbed three tear gas shells, several rubber bullets and blank shots to disperse the mob. In the afternoon, locals said, Rab and police indiscriminately forced bearded youths into the town's saloons, forcing them to shave.
SI Mahbub Hossain of Bagmara PS filed a case after the clashes, accusing the JMJB cadres of attacking
police and interrupting government work. Some local villagers, meanwhile, criticised the police for their actions. "Police should take a lesson from the incident that terrorism cannot be eliminated through terrorism," said an area dweller, adding that the police have backed the JMJB since its founding on March 31, 2004. "Yesterday's incident is nothing different from rearing a snake with milk and bananas", commented proliberation doctors' association president Dr Sayed Safiqul Alam.
Yesterday's clashes resulted from an earlier incident on Saturday night, when a mob lynched three bearded men of the fugitive terrorist Bangla Bhai-led Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh at the Bagmara upazila.
The lynching ensued immediately after a militant group bombed to death a villager and injured 30 others while running away from a foiled attempt on the life of Sreepur union council chairman Mokbul Hossain Mridha, who belongs to the Awami League (AL). Local AL members called a half-day hartal in the Taherpur municipality on Tuesday and a protest meeting on Wednesday for attacks on AL leaders.
Mokbul Mridha, 48 and vice president of Sreepur union AL, was attacked at approximately 8.30pm on
Saturday while walking home with local AL advisor Yusuf Ali Pramanik. As many as 11 masked men waylaid them at Kuthibari. "Seven of the attackers swooped down on us and hit Mridha with an iron rod on his head," said Yusuf talking to The Daily Star.
They then fired three shots, one hitting Mridha in the hip as he was jumping into a roadside ditch, said Yusuf. Mridha was later admitted to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH). The attackers, meanwhile, started to flee as villagers began chasing them. Cornered at Khoira beel, the attackers then hurled a bomb and killed Mahbub Hossain Dewan, 35, the AL publicity secretary at ward no. 9 of Taherpur municipality.
Some 30 persons were also injured in the bomb attack. Nine of them were admitted to RMCH with splinter wounds to their bodies, including their heads, faces, and eyes. Infuriated at the bomb attack, villagers jumped in the beel and caught three of the attackers, beating them to death on the spot. Three others escaped.
The incident was the first time that villagers turned out against JMJB since the militant band started operations on March 31 of last year, unleashing a violent campaign in which as many as 15 have been killed and several hundred others tortured, allegedly with police support on the plea of eliminating outlaws.
The lynched persons were identified as Abdur Rahman, a 20-year-old Alim (intermediate) student of Taherpur Madrassah; Ibrahim Hossain, an 18-year-old SSC examinee from Bhabaniganj High School;
and Abdul Baki Murad, 22, a man from Pallapara, Adamdighi in Bogra, Bangla Bhai's home.
Source: The Daily Star
Thu. January 27, 2005
Mystery shrouds Bangla Bhai's power
Babar says he would be arrested, but denies JMJB's existence
Infamous militant leader Bangla Bhai still eludes a police dragnet despite high-level government orders
for his arrest, including one by the premiere half a year ago, giving rise to the conjecture that he enjoys
mysterious and strong backing.
Whether the government is sincere in its efforts to arrest the self-styled leader of Jagrata Muslim Janata
Bangladesh (JMJB), which operates in the northeastern region, remains in question, as top-level
government officials, ruling coalition leaders and police high-ups have made contradicting statements
about his existence. But talking to The Daily Star in May last year, JMJB leaders themselves admitted they had been active underground for the last six years to establish a Taliban-like rule.
Grossly nine months after JMJB operations in broad daylight that killed at least 15 people and maimed
scores of others, literally taking the law in its own hands, State Minister for Home Lutfozzaman Babar
told reporters yesterday Bangla Bhai would be arrested as soon as he is found. But talking to BBC radio
the same day, he denied the existence of the JMJB. "We don't know any Bangla or English Bhai… no Bhai (brother) is important to us. We've a made a clear and clean order to arrest him," Babar said while briefing reporters after a meeting on law and order yesterday. The government is committed to arresting him but has failed to trace him, the minister said, seeking information on his whereabouts from people of all walks.
But asked by BBC radio to comment on government inaction in arresting Bangla Bhai, the minister said:
"I oppose very strongly that our ministry has failed to take action, because we are still trying. How would we arrest anyone if he is absent physically or not available?" "We don't know officially about the existence of the JMJB. Only some so-called newspapers are publishing reports on it. We don't have their constitution in our record," he told the BBC. In April of last year, the media started pouring out reports on JMJB actions in the name of fighting Sarbaharas (outlaws), but failed to move the government to arrest the Bangla Bhai outfit. A good number of journalists have interviewed Bangla Bhai, who introduced himself to them as Azizur Rahman. Although it was later learned that his real name is Omar Ali Litu, he also introduced himself as Siddiqul Islam while talking to The Daily Star in May of last year.
JMJB Amir and spiritual leader Mawlana Abdur Rahman also openly gave interviews and attended meetings in Rajshahi in May of last year. The militants operated openly and continue to do so, while police were often seen near their meeting venues. After reports were published that Prime Minister (PM) Khaleda Zia ordered the arrest of Bangla Bhai and his operatives, Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman and PM's political secretary Haris Choudhury admitted to the PM's order.
But local lawmakers, administration and local government bodies who supported JMJB's cleansing of outlaws made it clear that the ruling parties had links with JMJB's unlawful venture. Local and divisional
police not only stayed aloof from nabbing them, but literally stood in attention to the zealots' commands.
Despite strong concern in and outside the country against JMJB operations, Bangla Bhai remained untouched. Police first denied his existence and, after he faded into hiding, said they did not find him.
Although Rajshahi division BNP lawmakers and Jamaat-e-Islami leaders denied any link with the JMJB,
Bangla Bhai carried out his extra-judicial acts without any challenge from the government's part.
Well-placed sources said Bangla Bhai enjoyed support and assistance from local administration, with
certain influential politicians masterminding the vigilante action from backstage.
Sources said police even suggested to him to go into hiding after the PM's order for his arrest. In May last year, Rajshahi Superintendent of Police (SP) Masud Mia denied outright Bangla Bhai's existence. "There is no one called Bangla Bhai, nor any party called the JMJB. It's the local people who have forged resistance. I have come to know about Bangla Bhai through newspapers," he told The Daily Star then.
But immediately after Bangla Bhai went into hiding in July, the SP said, "Bangla Bhai's regime has ended. We now have complete control over the situation. We have isolated the Sarbaharas." Talking to local journalists on Tuesday, Masud said: "I've never denied Bangla Bhai's existence; he is in the wanted list of police." The nearly-40-year-old militant leader told The Daily Star that he was born to Nazir Hossain Pramanik of Kannipara village in Gabtoli upazila in Bogra. He claimed to journalists he graduated from Rajshahi University in 1995 with a master's in Bangla. But a crosscheck with the university shows there was no student named Azizur Rahman at the Bangla Department in 1995. Asked again, he said: "I studied Bangla at Azizul Haq University College affiliated with Rajshahi University."
"I enrolled at Rajshahi University. But I registered with the college because of various complications,"
he said without explaining the complications. As Bangla Bhai was guarded about his school and college education, his senior leader Amir Mowlana Abdur Rahman, who was also present during the interview, said Bangla Bhai studied at Tarafsartaj Senior Fazil Madrasa.
Source: The Daily Star
Thu. January 27, 2005
Army suspects JMJB used radio-controlled bomb in
Our Correspondent, Bogra
Army experts suspect Shafiqullah arrested on January 17 and his Islamist terrorist outfit Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) used radio-controlled bombs in some of their terrorist acts. The assumption is based on two facts. First, the chemical seized from him was identified as picric acid, or Trinitrophenol, which is one of the most dangerous chemicals and is primarily used to manufacture explosives. And second, the electric circuit found with him was identified as that of radio. After testing a sample of the chemical by setting fire to it yesterday, a seven-member army team concluded that it belongs to picric acid category of explosives. Police arrested Shafiqullah during a raid at Chaksodu village under the Gabtali upazila on January 17 to arrest Joinal, a prime suspect of hurling bombs on a Jatra show at Laxmicola village under Shajahanpur upazila on January 14. Police suspected Joinal's hand in the Jatra bombing, as a number of people injured in earlier bomb incidents in Dinajpur accused him his one of the attackers, sources said.
But Joinal managed to escape and still remains at large. Shafiqullah, who claimed to be a member of Islamist terrorist organisation Jamaatul Mujahedin, the former and outlawed outfit of JMJB operations commander Bangla Bhai, said he had come to visit Joinal, a long standing associate of his. Police said Shafiqullah did not divulge any very important information about the Jatra bomb blast to the joint interrogation cell and claimed himself innocent of the crime. However he did name a man named Osman as being involved in the outrage, though could not give any more details about him. Shafiqullah said he first joined Mujahedin. After Mujahedin was banned a few years ago, he like most of the Bangla Bhai's men started working under the banner of JMJB. They have a powerful operational network in Rajshahi and Joypurhat districts.
Source: The Daily Star
Sat. February 05, 2005
JMJB attacked jatra, arrested activist says
Our Correspondent, Bogra
Operatives of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) carried out bomb attacks on jatra (folk theatre) shows in Jamalpur last month, police said yesterday quoting an activist of the militant Islamist outfit arrested in Bogra recently. Followers of JMJB chief Abdur Rahman Shai and members of the JMJB bomb squad carried out the attacks, said the arrestee, Shafiqullah.
The bomb attacks were planned at a meeting at a madrasa in Jamalpur Sadar upzila, said Shafiqullah, arrested with explosives from JMJB operative Joynal's house at Chaksadu village of Gabtali upzila on January 16. He however claimed he was not involved in any bomb attacks. "A jatra show at Chhantia village of Dikpite union in Sadar upazila was attacked to frighten people to restrain them from staging such shows," Shafiqullah was quoted as saying during police interrogation before he was sent to the Joint Interrogation Cell on Thursday.
JMJB operatives exploded two bombs in the attack leaving at least 15 people injured. Activists of the militant outfit had made a similar attack on a jatra show at Gabtali bazar in Bhatra union under Sarisabari upzila that left around 10 people injured, the arrestee said. The bombs were hurled from speeding motorbikes, he said, adding that he was not linked to any of the attacks.
Police however arrested Awami League (AL) activists and supporters in connection with the incidents. Asked about the August 21 grenade attack on an AL rally in Dhaka, Shafiqullah told police that he knew
nothing about it. " JMJB men were involved in most of the bomb attacks carried out across the country,
and no grenade attacks," he said.
According to police, the arrestee said members of JMJB bomb squads have specified jobs. His task was
to connect electric device to bombs and switches of remote control bombs. The squads comprise separate people to hurl bombs and supply bomb-making materials. But he does know the identity of the others, he said. JMJB chief Abdur Rahman, its operation commander Bangla Bhai and other top leaders could provide
information on the other bomb attacks in different places in the country, Shafiqullah told police. On Rahman's whereabouts, Shafiqullah only said he sometimes visits the madrasa at his village home in Jamalpur. Meanwhile, in an interview with journalists at a government office at Bagmara in Rajshahi a few months back, Rahman said he returned to his Jamalpur home about seven years ago after his retirement from
Bangladesh embassy in Saudi Arabia. Claiming himself as a follower of Osama bin Laden, Rahman said he planned to form an organisation in 1997 along with some others having the same ideologies, and it came into being as Jama'atul Mujahidin.
Police raided a meeting of the organisation at Maheshpur of Khetlal upazila under Joypurhat district before it was formally launched, where Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai was also present, Rahman told journalists. As the situation changed, the organisers changed the name of the organisation to JMJB, he said. A top official of Bogra police said the operatives, involved in the bomb attack on a jatra show in Laxmikola village on January 14 that killed one and injured 40, are yet to be arrested. Police are hunting for JMJB operatives -- Joynal, Osman and Wajed alias Mamun of Gaibandha ---believed to be involved in the attack, said the police official.
Source: The Daily Star
DINAJPUR BOMB EXPLOSIONS
A closer look at the Dinajpur bomb explosions of 13th February 2003, as a case study, reveals interesting insights and details.
Secrecy from Day One
The Daily Star of February 17th 2003
Reports : Police are still tight-lipped about the investigation into Thursday’s bomb blasts in Dinajpur, raising suspicion among locals. The local people wonder how the Jamaatul Mujahideen operated in Dinajpur for long despite the presence of detectives and police and recent army-led Operation Clean Heart.
The Islamist outfit is said to be connected with the bomb blast incident. “We are doing our best but don’t want to reveal our findings for the sake of investigation,” said the Superintendent of Police S.M. Kamal Hossain. Interestingly, it took the Police more than two hours to be at the site after the explosion despite the fact that the Police Station was just a kilometer away from the site. That very evening, the first reaction of the Police Administration was to say to the Journalists not to write anything that would “damage country’s image abroad”. Journalists were not provided any information and neither were they allowed to visit the site and from day one the entire episode has been shrouded in mystery. By now, however, it is a well established fact, and also acknowledged to be so by the Minister in Parliament, that the premises where the bombs had gone off were rented by members of the Jamaatul Mujahideen (believed to have close links with militant
groups operating in Kashmir as well as al-Qaeeda network of Osama-bin-Laden; also see notes on "Bangla Bhai".)
The house ostensibly was rented by them as a lodging for some Madrasha students and they also used the local Ayesha Siddika Female Madrasha as one of their “safe houses”. (see picture below). Despite the secrecy, the Police had to acknowledge that they had recovered from this site, “huge quantity of illegal arms and ammunition, explosives, devices of time bombs and various documents including detailed maps of targets”. However, nothing further has since been heard. Dinajpur Municipality Chairman Syed Mosaddek Hossain Labu alleged that had police been serious, they could have arrested the people who were injured in the bomb blasts.
But even eight hours after the incident, police did not go for action, he said adding this enabled the injured culprits to flee from the town. (Prothom Alo, February 17). The name of Jamaatul Mujahideen first came to prominence on August 17, 2002 in Bagerhat when some of its members (including "Bangla Bhai") had attacked Tarapada Poddar, a leader of Awami League and Hindu-Bouddha-Christian Unity Council.
At that time, police in cooperation with local people had arrested five members of Jamaatul Mujahideen and recovered weapons and some documents of Jihad (holy war) written in Arabic. But all the arrested Mujahideen members –- Hekmat Mollah, Siddiqul Islam Pramanik (now infamously known as "Bangla Bhai"), Oliur Rahman, Shariful Islam Sohag and Hekmat’s son Abdul Matin – were granted bail as police did not file the case against them under Arms/Explosives Act, thus facilitating their release through lower Courts, controlled in full by the Government.
At that time the arrested Mujahideen members confessed that they had attempted to kill the Awami League leader per instruction of supreme command as he was from a minority community. Before the Bagerhat arrest, police on May 20, 2002 had also nabbed eight Mujahideen members from Dinajpur. But they were also released. In both the cases, the Government tried to show the incidents as isolated act did not file any charge sheet and acted in a manner that facilitated granting of bail by the lower courts.
Awami League Raises Issue in Parliament
Home Minister Air Vice Marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury made a statement in Parliament on February 16 2003 under Rule 300 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedures.
The Minister chose Rule 300 in order to preclude any lawmaker to discuss the matter in Parliament, prompting opposition Awami League to stage a walkout in protest for not allowing a requested discussion on a matter of grave national interest. Rule 300 is being abused by the Government as every time there is a matter of national importance that merits a full and open discussion in the House, the Government, fearing embarrassment, accountability and responsibility sidesteps debate.
Home Minister’s Statement Under Rule 300 in Parliament
The Home Minister’s statement regarding the Dinajpur incident is interesting. The statement was structured in a manner suggesting the bomb had blasted in a normal house.
Only at the fag end of his statement, does he refer to recovery of some papers and documents of the Islamic group. In his statement, the Minister expressed determination to combat militant forces but did not identify who these forces were.
NEW EXTREMIST OUTFIT DECLARES ITSELF
A few days before Dinajpur incident, on 8th February 2003, an armed militant group – “Shahadat-e-Hikma” declared in a open press conference, its emergence in northern Rajshahi district.
Its leader Syed Kawsar Hossain who was arrested on April 23, 2002 but later released in June, declared that Shahadat-e-Hikma, till then an underground outfit, would henceforth be working and operating openly.
In the open media brief, he informed that the Hiqma Group has 36,000 members across the country and they would be operating and using their arms and fire power for an Islamic revolution. He also admitted his party’s direct links with mafia don Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakil who sponsor fundamentalist forces in the region. The above public announcement resulted in outbursts of protest across the country forcing the Home Minister to say in Parliament that Government had banned Shahadat-e-Hikma. In the past the Government had been firm in its categorical assertions that no extremist or fundamentalist groups operate in the country but now their presence is so apparent that the Government has been forced to admit their existence. Obviously, the question that immediately comes to mind is how many more of these militant fundamentalist groups are operating in Bangladesh, how many (other than the 36,000 armed membership the Shahadat-e-Hikma claims) terrorists are operating in the country and the extent to which Bangladesh has become a safe heaven for such organizations.
Interestingly, the Home Minister’s above admission in Parliament was made when he was making the statement under Rule 300 on 17th February and in so doing, he has, unwittingly perhaps, confirmed Shahadat-e-Hikma and Jamaatul Majahideen are linked and are part of an extensive terrorist network operating in Bangladesh. Had this not been so, the Minister could have issued a statement in Parliament the day after Shahadat-e-Hiqma’s Press Conference. Despite the Home Minister’s declaration of banning the organization, this has not been followed up by the Police in terms of arresting terrorists whom the Government, through their statement in Parliament, has acknowledged as being anti-State. The belated ban allowed most Hiqma leaders time and opportunity to go underground and not surprisingly only one of its armed 36,000 members (with a single revolver) could be arrested! It is now clear that the presence of organisations such as Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote in the ruling Four Party Alliance is making it impossible for the Administration to take firm and effective action against militant organizations despite
the Prime Minister’s lip service to her Government’s apparent commitment to and support towards the global war on terrorism. Following are highlights of some press reports that will show the activities of the
militant groups and their link with Jamaat-e-Islami, a partner of the BNP-led coalition government.
Chapai Nawabganj :
Police on March 11 recovered time bombs, clocks used to trigger detonating devices, petrol bombs, high powered RDX explosives, bomb manufacturing equipment, audio recorders, mobile phones, cameras, several hundred masterpiece cassettes, books of 200 militant Islamic groups on how they conduct their operations, donation receipts and electric wires from a house at Chapai Nawabganj in Rajshahi.
The house is owned by a leader of coalition government partner, Jamaat and it was rented by some members of militant Jamaatul Mujahideen. Police also arrested five members of the militant group.
The books recovered from the house included one on “Interesting Electronics” that described how to manufacture bombs. There were also books written by Maulana Masud Azahar, a close associate of Osama-bin-Laden. Local police told newsmen that by unearthing the “bomb house” they foiled a number of serious bomb explosions. The police said the rented house surrounded by high boundary walls was also being used as a training camp.
(Daily Janakantha, March 12, 2003).
After the Chapai Nawabganj recovery and arrest, police suspect links with Islamic militants of Pakistan and India, as police found some toll receipts on a letterhead of Allama Abdullah Ibn Fazal Trust of Kashimnagar in Birbhum, West Bengal, India. They also apparently dealt in explosives and some unidentified men carried several bags of explosives from the camp at night.
Officer-in-Charge of Chapai Nawabganj police station Ali Ahmed Hashemi believes the arrested criminals are junior members of the group. But a senior police official said they are highly trained and did not cooperate during interrogation. (Daily Star, March 13, 2003) - Editorial from Daily Star:
Chapainawabganj police have done a commendable job picking up quite a few laurels in a row. It has unearthed a training camp of an Islamic militant group; arrested five suspected extremists; seized bombs and explosives from their hideout. Even though leading members of the Jamaatul Mujahideen in Bangladesh outfit made good their escape getting a wind of the imminent raid, the discovery should provide valuable leads for further investigation. On the back of a series of bomb blast incidents heightening the national concern for
security recently, the police have made a breakthrough, however, modest it may be. The trend should be encouraged, followed-up vigorously, and moved forward. To this end, the police must receive all kinds of support from the Government: human resource, material, technical expertise and equipment. Army intelligence may be harnessed and we may not even hesitate to use internationally available forensic
know-how, where necessary.
Chapai Nawabganj, Rajshahi – Arrested Jamaatul Mujahideen militants
But no serious action was visible from the police side to follow-up on Chapai Nawabganj. It was clear that the Government itself did not want to dig the matter further, apprehending its partner Jamaat would be unmasked if due investigations were to follow.
All of the arrested were originally Jamaat activists, but were working as members of Jamaatul Mujahideen as a cover. After unearthing of incriminating evidence and arresting of the local Jamaat leaders, their activists went into hiding for a certain period. After a temporary thaw and securing the green signal from the high-ups, they returned to their homes. The Daily Star, other newspapers and civil society had sought international forensic enquiry into the bomb episodes but the Government did not show minimum interest in this regard.
Islamic militant group Hijbut Tawhid has established its presence and activities in Barisal, Madaripur and Gopalganj districts. Other than training camps in these districts, it has also recruited female members as activists. The activities of Hijbut Tawhid became clear after the militant group and local people locked in a clash at a place named Bhurghata that left one killed and 25 injured. Police said they had arrested Sohrab Khan, the local Ameer of Hijbut Tawhid on September 19, 2001, but he was released on bail. He was again arrested on June
17, 2002, but again released on bail.
(Daily Prothom Alo, May 7, 2003 and Daily Sangbad, May 8, 2003)
Hijbut Towhid showed its hands again on 10 September 2003 at Poradaha when they entered into a clash with local students and the police in which 45 people were hurt.
It has been reported that 1200 Hijbut militants are operating in Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga and Jhenidah. With close links to Jamaat, an integral component of the ruling Alliance, they are also believed to have well-equipped centers in these districts.
The Jamaatul Mujahideen circulated large number of leaflets in Kishoreganj town. The leaflet urged people to take part in armed holy Jihad. It said Jihad is “farz” (obligatory) for every Muslim and claimed that Bangladesh currently is under anti-Islamic law, a colonial legacy. It also urged upon the armed forces and law enforcing personnel to use their arms for establishing the rule of Allah. (Daily Prothom Alo, April 6, 2003)
The media have been reporting that Kishoreganj has become a stronghold of Jamaatul Mujahideen but no government action has been observed thus creating an environment of fundamentalist dominance that treats law with total impunity.
Jamaat MP-Terrorist Meeting in Prison:
Syed Abdullah Mohammad Taher, a Jamaat-e-Islami MP had a meeting, in clear violation of the jail code with top terrorist Nasir, an armed cadre of Jamaat’s student front Islami Chhatra Shibir and accused in 36 criminal cases inside the prison in Chittagong.
Jail Superintendent Mohammad Shahidullah and Senior Jail Super Mir Maksud Hossain admitted the meeting between Islami Chhatra Shibir terrorist Nasir and Jamaat MP Taher. (April 07, 2003 - "Daily Prothom Alo")
Headlines of Some Press Reports:
Jamaatul Mujahideen Active in Eight Northern Districts (Daily Sangbad, April 20, 2003)
Jamaatul Mujahideen Member Arrested in Bogra (Daily Prothom Alo, April 19, 2003)
Jamaatun Mujahideen Discloses Some Names to Joint Interrogation Cell (Daily Prothom Alo, April 29, 2003)
Four Islamic Militants Arrested in Meherpur (Daily Prothom Alo, March 18, 2003)
Militant Red Alert in Rajshahi, Police Watch on Madrasha, Islamic Outfits (Daily Star, March 14, 2003)
Hijbut Tawhid Conducts Open Campaign in Sylhet (Daily Janakantha, March 8, 2003)
Stronghold of Hijbut Tawhid in Chittagong (March 1, 2003)
(NONE of the media reports referenced in this document have been contradicted or countered by either the ruling BNP / Jamaat Alliance Government or any of the other organizations named)
An article from “The Holiday”, a weekly, on growing extremism in Bangladesh under
BNP Jamaat Alliance is reproduced below :
“RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS DARE THE GOVERNMENT: TIME TO SHED OSTRICH-SYNDROME”
Zayd Almer Khan, 21 March 2003, Weekly Holiday
While the government continues its rebuttal of allegations, from within the country and without, of the presence of religious extremism-driven clandestine organisations in Bangladesh, physical evidences testifying to their truth have begun to manifest themselves.
And in its hesitation to explicitly term these evidences as signs of either criminal terror or political terror, and deciding to deal with them accordingly, the government is subjecting itself to a number of awkward yet pertinent questions.
Last Tuesday’s arrest in Chapai Nawabganj of five members of the extremist organisation Jamaatul Mujahedeen, along with time bombs and other sophisticated explosive materials, soon after an accidental explosion (while manufacturing bombs) on February 14 at a hostel in Dinajpur run by the same organisation, implies a trend and the presence of a network.
Police raids on both instances turned up leaflets, audio-cassettes and guidebooks propagating ‘religious combat’ as well as ledgers noting donations ‘for the cause’.
Police had also arrested on February 15 a member of the outlawed organisation Shahadat-e Al Hiqma, who has hinted at an intricate network of religious extremist groups in the country.
The evident existence of these groups, though very much a fringe factor yet, do not give comfort. The government, to its credit, has done well first not to hush up the incident of Dinajpur and then to follow through on its investigation in raiding the Chapai Nawabganj site.
It also banned all activities of the Al Hiqma on February 9, acknowledging their activities as political terror instead of criminal terror. There is, however, a certain wariness and hesitation noticeable in the overnment’s
actions that it can ill afford. While Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury stated in Parliament on February 16 that the Al Hiqma had been banned on February 9, newspaper reports claimed that its activities in Rajshahi continue till today, in full swing and under no pretence of secrecy.
On March 9, a month after the banning order, the Home Minister admitted in Parliament that the authorities in Rajshahi might not have received the order ‘which could take 8 to 10 days to reach Rajshahi’, indicating the government’s vacillation and lethargy in implementing its own decision.
And Jamaatul Mujahideen, an obscure organisation, is yet to be banned, even after the explosion in Dinajpur and the haul at Chapai Nawabganj. In the meanwhile, since no government order outlawing Al Hiqma had reached the police administration at local level, members arrested could only be charged with carrying illegal arms and ammunition, for which bail is readily forthcoming. For instance, Kawsar Hossain Siddiqi, the General Secretary of Al Hiqma, has been arrested twice, but remains at large on bail as charges of sedition and/or organised terrorism have not been brought against him.
In fact, the police reports of the cases of arrests and explosions mention neither Jamaatul Mujahedeen nor Al Hiqma. The cases are against individuals, and do not deal with organisations or their networks, although the individuals themselves have admitted to being part of the network.
So while the government seems ready to tackle these findings politically at the macro level, at the micro level its agencies have not been instructed to deal with the organisations promptly and effectively. Why this discrepancy, and the hesitation to take on the organisations head on?
Questions also remain about why the religious extremist organisations have suddenly crawled out of the woodwork at this point in time. The Al Hiqma, for instance, has gone from a largely low-profile, almost underground, organisation to holding a press conference in Rajshahi on February 8, proclaiming a jihad of sorts. The post-September 11 international politics surrounding Islam, no doubt, provides these elements with an opportune moment to try to creep into the mainstream, riding on a wave of Islamic solidarity.
Their emergence as the champion mass-mobilisers of the day also has to do with the unwillingness of the mainstream political parties to take a stand on the current geopolitical debate on America’s ‘war on terror’. Both the Awami League and the BNP, it seems, are firmly caught between not wanting to jeopardise their close American connections and not wanting to hurt religious sentiments at home as well. Meanwhile, the fringe elements are reaping the benefit of their indecision. But something must be said for the extremist elements ‘comfort level’ with the fourparty alliance government in power.
When extremist organisations proclaim through their open activities that they feel politically safer than before with the current administration in power, the government has to spell out its political stance.
In the political world, silence surely is tantamount to support. In these times of the disappearing centrist voice within the BNP, it is crucial for BNP to clearly spell out its politics on the issue. Otherwise, with the psychological and physical assurance gained from the presence of religious elements within the alliance, the extremists will continue to feel politically safer.
Bomb blasts revisited
Against the backdrop of the Al Hiqma and Jamaatul Mujahedeen revelations, the Awami League has demanded fresh investigations of the many bomb blast incidents of the last year. Right now, the demands seem logical indeed. The government has so far used these incidents for political advantage vis-a-vis the Awami League. The arrests of the religious extremists could lay bare the government’s motives behind the yet unjustified harassments. In fact, according to press reports the one-man judicial commission report on the Mymensingh cinema hall bomb blasts of December, for which a number of Awami League leaders were arrested identifies none of the mainstream political parties, but rather a ‘foreign agency’, as the mastermind.
Explosion during making of bomb in a Madrasha in Sherpur:
Recently in Madrasa at Sherpur, a bomb exploded when it was being made by some students of the Madrasa. Police recovered some materials from the spot which were used to make the Bomb.(Prothom Alo June 03, 2003)
Al-Qaeeda Associate in Bangladesh: Bank Accounts in Bangladesh
It is known from a reliable source, that a close ally of Osama-Bin-Laden, Mr. Enam Arnet and his organisation had a bank account in Bangladesh under name of “Benevolence International Organisation” whose Directors have been shown as Enam Arnet and Rifat Abu Qadir.
U.S. citizen Mr. Enam Arnet is now under trial in Chicago for his alleged involvement in financing terrorist activities AROUND the world. His organization “Benevolence International Foundation” is enlisted as a terrorist organization is U.S.A. (Prothom Alo June 23, 2003)
The Daily Star July 16, 2003
New outlaw groups swing into action
Staff Correspondent, Khulna
The Jihadi Party and the Hizbut Touhid, two underground organisations, have started criminal activities in the southwestern zone. Police recently arrested 14 activists of the two parties from Jhenidah, the stronghold
of the parties. They have been kept in isolation in Jhenidah district jail. Police could not make any headway in the investigation till yesterday into the ultimate goals of these two underground organisations which are fundamentalist by nature. The owners of five motorcycles and two mobile phone sets seized from Hizbut
Tauhid and Jihadi Party activists are yet to be identified. Jhenidah police officials do not rule out the possibility of these two underground Islamist parties having links with the underworld. The Jihadi Party leaflets sermonise on economic salvation of the distressed people through armed struggle. "We have information that the Hizbut Tauhid is involved in smuggling of arms and explosives into the country and is trying to incite religious fanaticism among the people," said Sub-inspector Shamsul Huq and Sub-inspector Mizanur Rahman of the Harinakundu Police Station of Jhenidah district. They suspect that activists of these two Islamist underground organisations are in possession of arms, ammunition and explosives. The Jihadi Party has identified police as enemies of Islam in its leaflets. According to DB (Detective Branch) officials, the Jihadi Party and the Hizbut Tauhid are gradually spreading their networks in the southwestern region.
The 14 arrestees now in Jhenidah jail have been identified as Amir Ali, 50, Faruquee, 25, Azim Shaikh, 29, Mahbub, 27, Liton, 22, Ebadat Ali, 25, Rafiqul Islam, 20, Rabiul, 25, Shohad, 12, Maznu, 25, Ataul Huq, 20, Mizanur Rahman, 20, Manik,18, and Alimul, 21.
Jail sources said the arrestees are Sunni by faith or so they pretend. But they are not saying prayers with other Muslim prisoners. Their attitude and behaviour are quite different from Sunni Muslims', the sources added. "We are followers of Imamuzzaman Mohammad Bayezid of Tangail," the 14 arrestees claimed during quizzing by police.
JAMAATUL MUJAHIDIN IN JOYPURHAT
The outlawed Islamic militants suddenly burst into prominence on 16 August 2003 and for the next fortnight they featured prominently in all the national news media. At midnight on 14th the home of a Jamat leader Montezar Rahman in Uttar Maheshpur of Khetal PS turned into a battlefield in which six policemen were injured, some guns and bullets were looted and the gangsters made good their escape. It is learnt that the Officers in Charge of two Police Stations who led the raid proved unequal to the task. As a joint Police BDR hunt was launched militants from many districts such as Dinajpur, Naogaon, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Bogra, Chapai Nawabganj, Gaibandha and Joypurhat were caught in connection with this case. They indicated that they were waging a Jihad for Islamic rule. It was discovered that some of the militants had been trained in Pakistan & Afghanistan and some of their munitions came from Pakistan. It was also learnt that the illegal organization has active units all over the northern districts of the country. The hunt for the criminals and looted arms and ammunitions also hauled successive caches of arms & ammunitions from the area on 22nd and 23rd August. Strange as it may appear the arrested criminals have not been charged with sedition despite clear indication of their waging an armed rebellion.
A very valid question is why are the authorities going so soft on the followers of a banned militant group.
Boalmari Al Jamatul Islamia fanatics with international links
The news headline in the Daily Star on 21 September read “18 extremists held at BNP leader’s house”.
It seems that the militants operate from a chain of Madrassas in Faridpur, Magura and Madaripur districts.
The leader of the group one Abdur Rouf, it transpires, took his training in Pakistan and also fought in Afghanistan. Eighteen Members of religious extremists arrested in Boalmari, Faridpur from house of a local BNP Leader. (Daily Prothom Alo - 21st September 2003)
It is interesting that the BNP leader Kamruzzaman, in whose house the militants congregated, was not arrested. Further, it appears that some of these criminals have links with accused persons in the Gopalganj bomb blast case. Stranger still is the discovery of cassettes from the site on Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Husain. The moot question is if the Government is sincere in its investigation of militants’ operations. The question has become more relevant when on the following day came the statement of the Home Minister Altaf Husain, “A few people are involved in these incidents and they have no connection with the mainstream Islamic political parties.
They are not capable of terrorist activities as they do not have huge arms and ammunitions.” What more could he say to encourage the criminals, indeed! The editorial of the Daily Star of 24 September 2003 states:
Suspected militants arrested
There should be a thorough probe into their international links. The arrest of a suspected leader of an Islamic militant group, along with 17 others in Faridpur, has led to some sensational findings on how such groups were operating and, more important, maintaining links in other countries.
Police have succeeded in arresting the leader and members of yet another group which looks like having an agenda not compatible with true religious values. The police vigil and activism in this area of national concern are laudable. But obviously they have a long way to go.
Maulana Abdur Rouf, leader of 'Al Jamiatul Islamia', has reportedly admitted that he was trained in Pakistan before going to Afghanistan to fight the then Soviet occupation forces. It is suspected he has had links with two Islamic militant groups in Myanmar as well.
They have been arrested after quite a few incidents had taken place in quick succession pointing to the likely presence of some militant organisations in the country. The names of suspected militants came up following big ammo hauls, discovery of bomb-making plants and training and education centres. So, the incidents are following a pattern which indicates that the whole thing is being conducted in an orchestrated fashion. International links add a new dimension to the issue which is that the militants might have been working on a broader plan. So, the law enforcers should carry forward the process of investigation to find out what they have been up to. The point is relevant because Bangladesh is firmly committed to opposing terrorism of any kind. It is imperative that religious education centres like madrassahs, which could be used for training and ideologically transforming youngsters, are kept a tab on, and identified. The activities having little to do with education or religion have to be contained at any cost.
There is no way anyone can turn a blinkered eye to what has been happening. Bangladesh, under the BNP-Jamat rule, seems to have developed into a safe haven for the extremists. The other day in Sunamganj a new group styled Allahr Dal has been located. (Daily Star 23 September 2003). But more disconcerting is the news on the external links of such groups. Per Washington Post of 07 September 2003, “Egypt announced last week that it had arrested 23 men and was seeking two more on charges of belonging to a terrorist group. The suspects -- 19 Egyptians, three Bangladeshis, a Turk, an Indonesian and a Malaysian -- were planning to fight U.S. forces in Iraq.” Egypt's interior minister, Habib Adli, said in an interview with the magazine Al Mussawar. On 27th May 2004, three Bangladeshis were arrested in Japan on suspicion that were linked to an Al-Qaeeda network operating in the country.
Daily Star, September 27, 2003
Protester bludgeoned to death by Hizbut men
10 hurt in N'ganj, leader Bayezid Panni arrested
A man was bludgeoned to death and 10 others injured by members of Hizbut Touhid yesterday for protesting activities of the Islamic militant outfit at Pagla in Narayanganj, witnesses said. Police could not nab the operatives who killed Abdul Malek, 30, employee of a wholesale rice shop, but arrested Bayezid Khan Panni, alleged boss of the group, at his Uttara residence.
Sources said Malek suffered injuries when he along with some locals protested the distribution of leaflets near Pagla Jam-e-Masjid at around 10:00am by the outfit, terming it outlawed.
The Daily Star February 23, 2004
Amar Ekushey Observance
Sirajganj bomb blast hurts 7, two bombs retrieved in M'singh
A powerful bomb blast wounded seven people during an Amar Ekushey exhibition at Damdama Bazaar, Ullapara in Sirajganj while police recovered two bombs from near the Shaheed Minar at Phulbaria Degree College in Mymensingh on Friday night. The explosion took place at around 8:00pm on the first night of the exhibition when a folk song programme was going on.
Local youths organised the three-day exhibition marking the International Mother Language Day. Among the injured, three were admitted to Sirajganj General Hospital.
Our Mymensingh correspondent said the bombs were wrapped in papers and some local people on suspicion reported to police about them at around 10:00 on Friday night.
A police team led by Additional Superintendent of Police Md Akkasuddin Bhuiyan rushed there.
Police cordoned off the area until army bomb experts from Ghatail Cantonment led by Major Ali Reza recovered the bombs at about 3:00pm on Saturday. After exploding the devices at Kushmail, the army experts said there were no splinters in the abandoned bombs.
They said the bombs weighing about a kilogram contained gunpowder and were made locally. The experts put the range of the bombs at up to 50 yards. The recovery sent a chill among the people, prompting authorities to hurriedly shift the main programme of offering wreaths to the nearby Pilot High School Shaheed Minar. The college authorities cancelled the Ekushey programmes at the Shaheed Minar. However, Ekushey programmes were observed in the town amid tight security. Police however believe criminals might have kept the bombs in the tank Friday night during the two-hour blackout in Mymensingh town. A three-member inquiry committee has been formed to investigate the incident.
Headed by the ASP, the committee started its probe yesterday. The other members of the committee are DI-1 Shamsul Kabir and Officer-in-Charge of Phulbaria Police Station Mohammad Aftabuddin. Different political and socio-cultural organisations have condemned 'planting of bombs' near the Shaheed Minar.
32 Islamic militants nabbed in raid on Barguna mosque
Suspected as Bangla Bhai's men; seized books, leaflets outline how to attack PMO, police stations and fight paramilitary
Our Correspondent, Barisal
Police yesterday arrested 32 suspected Islamic militants in training in a mosque and seized jihad-inspiring books, leaflets and other printed materials in an outlying village in the southern district of Barguna.
A handwritten guide titled "Surprise Action" inspires the militants to attack the Prime Minister's Office and police stations and fight paramilitary and other forces in the event of resistance.
Law enforcers also seized a booklet on how to operate AK-47 rifles and attack police stations and a map of different high-profile locations from Ahmed Master's Mosque in Shialia village in Barguna Sadar upazila. The books contained pictures of Osama bin Laden and messages on jihad.
Police linked the militants to the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh of dreaded vigilante commander Bangla Bhai, blamed for a series of killings and abductions in the northwest since April 1.
Barguna police said the 32 youths stayed in several mosques in the district for training in martial art, including kung fu and karate, under cover of preaching Islamic principles on Sunday and Monday.
Among the arrestees, some were students of Barguna Government College and Barguna Alia Madrasa, who came from Patharghata and Mathbaria upazilas, while the rest came from northwestern districts of Rajshahi, Sylhet and Bogra. The morning raid came after Imam Tofazzal Hossain of Khejurtala Mosque, appointed by
another imam Al Ullah as a guide for the youths, protested the militant training in the mosque. The outraged militants threatened him with death and tied his hands. Tofazzal fled the mosque under cover of dark and informed villagers, who alerted Barguna Police Station to the incident before hemming in the militants.
A police team led by Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer Mofazzal Hossain and Barguna Sadar Police Station Officer-in-Charge Syed Shafiqul Islam arrived in the village and arrested the youths.
Barguna Superintendent of Police Zahurul Islam told The Daily Star that the arrestees are aged between 15 and 35. Police also arrested Mostafa Hasan, a teacher of Tiakhali Halta Madrasa, who was coordinating the training, and Al Ullah, llocal coordinator of the militant activities. Among the seized books are Jongi Proshikhaner Kolakoushal (Militant Training Maneuvers), Eso Kafelay Jai and Jihad Santras Noy Rahamat (Jihad is not Terrorism but Blessings) edited by Mawlana Abdullah Al Azhar and Musalmander Guerrilla Juddha Poddhoti (Tactics of Muslims' Guerrilla Warfare) edited by Mawlana Masruf Al Azhar.
MINDLESS CRUELTY AT URS AT HAZRAT SHAH JALAL (SM) DARGAH
On night of 12th January 2004, a bomb blast killed two people on the spot and injured hundreds who gathered for the annual Urs of Hazrat Shah Jalal (Sm) at the Dargah premises.
52 of the injured were hospitalized, 3 of whom are struggling for their life. The bomb was carefully buried in the ground obviously escaping attention of security arrangements enforced in the area after the fish-poisoning incident about a month ago. For almost 700 years this festival takes place and it is a part of the local culture in which people of all religions and vocations participate. Dargah Shah Jalal is host to several
other harmless traditions, not exactly symbolizing religious ceremonies but revered by common people.
About a month ago vandalism was committed in the tank of the Dargah when a particular species of fishes (“Gajar Mach”) were poisoned by some miscreants. Despite the call for serious investigation of the crime and obvious proof of poisoning the administration almost intentionally neglected the issue. On the contrary religious bigots such as Jamaat MP Delwar Hussain Sayeedi started well-orchestrated propaganda against these traditions and in a gathering at Sylhet Madrasha Maidan, on 2nd January 2004, urged innocent people to resist these traditions considered by them to be “Haraam” and anti-Islam. Despite public outrage, such provocation, certainly by no means an isolated incident, was carried out with blessings of the Ruling BNP /Jamaat Alliance.
THE CARNAGE IN MAY 2004
Friday 21st May 2004 witnessed yet another horrendous manifestation of recent extremist activism in Bangladesh – a grenade attack at the Shah Jalal mosque premises in Sylhet, ostensibly on the UK High Commissioner, as he was walking out after taking part in the congregational prayer there. In a series of extremist steps perpetrated over the past few years, this is the first instance of a foreign dignitary being
targeted. The incident is a matter of national disgrace, all the more so because Sylhet is the land of the ancestry of the High Commissioner. The above attack which killed three people and injured over 50 including the British High Commissioner came exactly two weeks after the assassination in broad daylight of Mr.
Ahsanullah Master, MP in Gazipur, near Dhaka just as he was leaving the rostrum to attend weekly Friday prayers.
Shahjalal (Rh.) Mazar, Sylhet - January 12 2004
21 May 2004 – Aftermath of the bomb blast in Sylhet.
SYLHET: AN EXPERIMENTAL LABORATORY FOR TERRORISTS DASTARDLY HOLOCAUST
The bomb attack on Hotel Gulshan on 8 August, 2004 is just the most recent incident of lawlessness and targeted attack on the opposition political party by the extremist groups under the patronage of the ruling BNP-Jamat junta. On that evening the Executive Committee of the City Awami League was having one
of its routine meetings there. No sooner the meeting ended than there was a bomb blast in the parking area. It was reported tied to a jeep parked there. Tens of AL leaders were injured along with a few workers of the Hotel and passersby. By midnight M Ibrahim, Publicity Secretary of City AL died at the operation table.
Several others are still fighting for life and Dhaka hospitals. It appears that secular practices and opposition leadership are the targets of the miscreants in Sylhet. In December the fishes of the pond at Shah Jalal ® shrine were poisoned to death. In January the Urs at Shah Jalal shrine was sought to be foiled by a bomb blast. Then came the carnage at the mosque premises at Shah Jalal shrine in which the Sylhet-born British High Commissioner was injured. Some days later a public meeting addressed by an AL Presidium member Suranjit Sen Guta M P at Derai was attacked with grenades. This was followed by threats on the life of the Mayor of Sylhet giving a deadline of 25 July. A large number of death threats were then held out to people of secular feelings from all walks of life such as journalism, cultural front, legal profession and AL leadership. On 5 August three bombs were placed in three cinema halls, two of which exploded. Earlier a shrine in Moulvibazar was threatened and immediately following the latest bomb blast another mosque in Fenchuganj was temporarily occupied by terrorists.
In December 2003 vandalism was committed in the tank of the Dargah when a particular species of fishes (Gajar Mach) were poisoned by some miscreants. Despite the call for serious investigation of the crime and obvious proof of poisoning the administration almost intentionally neglected the issue. On night of 12th January 2004, a bomb blast killed two people on the spot and injured hundreds who gathered for the annual Urs of Hazrat Shah Jalal (Sm) at the Dargah premises. 52 of the injured were hospitalized and some were permanently maimed. The bomb was carefully buried in the ground obviously escaping attention of security
arrangements enforced in the area after the fish-poisoning incident about a month ago.
This happened in the wake of well-orchestrated propaganda against the traditions of Urs by religious bigots such as Jamaat MP Delwar Hussain Sayeedi. In a gathering at Sylhet Madrasha Maidan, on 2nd January 2004, he urged innocent people to resist these traditions considered by him and the Jamat to be “Haraam”
and anti-Islam. Despite public outrage, such provocation was carried out virtually with the blessings of the ruling junta.
For almost 700 years this festival takes place and it is a part of the local culture in which people of all religions and vocations participate. Dargah Shah Jalal is host to several other harmless traditions, not exactly symbolizing religious ceremonies but revered by common people.
On Friday 21st May 2004 came the most horrendous manifestation of recent extremist activism in Bangladesh. A grenade attack was made at the Shah Jalal mosque premises in Sylhet ostensibly on the UK High Commissioner as he was walking out after saying the congregational prayer there. In a series of extremist steps perpetrated in the last two and a half year this is the first time a foreign dignitary seems to have been made the target. The incident is a matter of national disgrace particularly because Sylhet is the land of the ancestry of the High Commissioner. The killed three people and injured over 50 including the British High Commissioner.
On 21 June Suranjit Sen Gupta, a senior parliamentarian and member of AL Presidium was addressing a meeting in his constituency in Derai in Sunamganj. Soon after he finished his speech a grenade was thrown at the podium killing one worker and injuring more than 50 people. Luckily Mr. Sen Gupta had just left the site. A few days later the Mayor of Sylhet, Badruddin Ahmed Kamran, who is also President of City AL, received death threat from a group called Tiger Killing Force. They gave a deadline of 25 July. They also issed death threats to 17 other people. And on the expiry of the deadline they made a statement that the threat would be executed any way.
In the pattern of attack on four Mymensingh cinema halls on 4 December 2002, three cinema halls in Sylhet were attacked on 5 August 2004. Two of the time bombs exploded while one did not. One young boy was killed and tens of innocent people injured , some maimed permanently.
WHAT IT MEANS
In none of the cases investigations gave any results. The Government invariably pointed the accusing finger at the AL even when there is clear evidence of involvement of extremist fundamentalist groups. For example, some members of Chatra League who protested the attack on the British High Commissioner are still languishing in jail for no rhyme or reason. It seems that the government deliberately misdirects investigations to allow the criminals to escape. Dargah incidents involve some Jamat design to capture the management of the shrine and prohibition of practices they consider impure. But Jamat is not even questioned for information and explanation. It is rumored that the police is even tired of this game of deception.
Sylhet abounds in Madrassas, many of which are used as training grounds for fundamentalist fanatics. Sylhet also is a border area, where extremists of the Indian Hill provinces are reported to come and go. The unwillingness of the government to face the reality of the situation has turned Sylhet into an experimental laboratory for terrorist activities. Some partners in the Government are accused of foisting terrorist groups such as Bangla Bhai in northern region, Janajuddha in southern region, Tiger Force in northeastern region and various other groups elsewhere.
In the latest incident a local MP Ilyas Ali of Bishwanath appeared with TV and media representatives within minutes of the incident at the hospital to express sympathy. He categorically dismissed the idea of any attempt on the life of the Mayor and immediately accused AL of staging the blast to kill its own leaders.
This MP had a reputation for terror tactics while he was a student leader only recently. How come he was so prepared for the incident and so sure that the Mayor was not a target? He has powerful political rivals in Bishwanath where he behaves like a virtual warlord.
It is suspected that he is behind the arrest of an expatriate Bengali British citizen Nunu Mia who arrived form UK that day and was staying in the Hotel prior to proceeding to a political reception in Bishwanath. Reportedly he is being given third degree treatment so that he accuses some rivals of the MP.
Extremist groups started becoming active by late 1999. The government of the time sought international help to investigate the incidents thoroughly. The BNP-Jamat junta stopped these proceedings and instead appointed a retired Justice to look into the matter. The report of that partisan lawyer was so disgusting that the authorities had to discard it. They incarcerated AL leaders, journalists and intellectuals for the Mymensingh bomb blast but finally nothing could be proved against them and the actual culprits were allowed to escape. There have been a number of interceptions of smuggled arms such as in Bogra, Dinajpur and Chittagong. In each case the investigation is weak and whenever BNP-Jamat activists are found involved they come to a grinding halt. As lawlessness has found its own steam and BNP-Jamat Frankensteins are running wild it is speculated that the government has been hauling up some famous terrorists and killing them in custody or in faked confrontation so that their own complicity is not let out of the bag. The country seems to be in the grip of a genie of the worst disposition. Prime Minister appears to be the godmother of all terrorist activities. All the extremist groups appear to have links with Jamat and it fits in well with its philosophy of power grabbing by hook or by crook. The police and its various organs have earned the notoriety of protectors of terrorists and perpetrators of illegal torture and oppression. The country is fast moving towards a state of anarchy and possibly civil commotion.
MEASURES TO TAKE
• Setting up of an international investigation team for all acts of terrorism of the last three/four years.
• Review and scrutinize reports of investigations carried out by the previous AL Government and interview concerned Investigation Officers
• Surveillance of all Madrassas, especially their sources of finance, and closure of dens of extremism where needed.
• Setting up of a bipartisan team to search, find and destroy all training camps for fundamentalist and other terrorist training.
• Retirement of the corrupt and oppressive police force and establishment of decentralized forces based on community policing and civic service to people.
For further information, please contact:
Human Rights Advocate
Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh
Box – 5, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh
Tel.: (880-2) 9352149