The Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) yesterday recovered a huge cache of firearms and ammunition from the Satchhari National Park in Habiganj.
Two light machine guns (LMGs), nine sub-machine guns (SMGs), six self-loading rifles (SLRs), one automatic rifle of 7.62mm calibre, one sniper telescope-side, one SMC (sub-machine carbine), one Beta gun and 2,400 rounds of 7.62mm bullets were recovered during a raid in the
forest in Chunarughat upazila, bordering the Indian state of Tripura, said Mufti Mahmud Khan, director, Legal and Media Wing of the Rab.
He was briefing journalists at the office of Crime Prevention Company (CPC) -2 of Rab-9 in Srimangal upazila of Moulvibazar at 12:30pm following the haul. This is the third such haul in three months from the same forest.
The elite force, however, could not make any arrest in any of the three incidents.
“We found the arms and ammunition this morning. But our intelligence team was on the hunt since August 29.”
Replying to a query, the Rab official said they were yet to ascertain who had stored the arms and ammunition there. “It will be known after examining intelligence information.”
He added that they would continue their search inside the forest and adjacent areas for more arms.
Around 4:30pm, a Rab team led by Squadron Leader ANA Musabbir, the CPC-2 commander who spearheaded the recovery operation, took some 10 journalists to one of the two spots inside the forest. A correspondent of The Daily Star was in the team.
The team rode on a minibus from Srimangal via Chunarughat and got off around 300 yards from the main gate of the reserve forest. From there, it took 35 minutes on foot along a trail by a dried chhara (long and narrow water-body) to reach the first spot.
It was a hillock. The Rab officer pointed to a spot there and said an eight feet deep and six feet wide hole was there and inside it was a part of the haul. The hole was filled up after the recovery.
The Daily Star correspondent found some loose soil in a circle indicating that there had indeed been a hole at the spot.
The Rab men, however, did not take the journalist to the other spot due to “time constraint”. The spot was some 15 minutes' walk from there, according to the Rab official.
“An organised gang might have stored the arms,” said Musabbir.
Recently, the Rab has made several arms busts from Satchhari forest, which the law enforcers say is used as a route for smuggling arms by Indian separatist outfits.
On June 3, the Rab recovered 184 rocket shells (40mm) and 153 charges from a bunker inside the forest, some 130km off the capital.
Six days later, 633 rounds of 7.62mm bullets, 54 rounds of 12.54mm bullets and a 37-inch long barrel of a machinegun were recovered from the forest.
Amulya Kumar Chowdhury, officer-in-charge of Chunarughat Police Station and the investigation officer of the cases filed in connection with the two hauls, said he had made “some progress” into the investigation but declined to give details.
On June 27, 2003, a truckload of ammunition was recovered in Bogra. Investigators had said they found links of militant National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) with the recovered ammunition.
Bangladesh Rifles (now Border Guard Bangladesh) arrested two Indians with a modern Chinese rifle, a gun, a compass and a wireless radio set in Satchhari forest four days later.