An upazila-level Jubo League leader allegedly arranged safe passage for a death row JMB leader, Rakib Hasan Russell, after his escape from a prison van along with two other top leaders of the banned militant outfit in Mymensingh in February.
Kamal Hossain Sabuj, an arrestee in the sensational case, made the claim at a media briefing at the Rab headquarters in Uttara yesterday.
According to him, Ataur Rahman Kamal, joint secretary of Bhaluka upazila Jubo League, formed a team of six to seven people to pick up Rakib from Bhoradoba and drop him at Fulbaria of Mymensingh.
But Kamal binned the claim, saying it aimed at tarnishing his and his family's image.
Sabuj, 38, who claimed to be involved with the Awami League politics, said he took part in the ambush to snatch away Rakib. Two other groups helped flee the two other militants -- Salauddin Ahmed alias Salehin and Zahidul Islam alias "Boma" Mizan.
He is among the eight people arrested by Rab recently. They were all paraded before the media yesterday.
Four of them, including Sabuj, however, were abducted from Bhaluka in Mymensingh while three others went missing over the past 10 days.
Sabuj and his cousin Abu Bakar Siddique Swapan, both tutors at a local coaching centre, were kidnapped from their homes by a gang around 4:00am on Monday.
Islami Bank employee Elias Uddin was kidnapped when he was going home from a mosque after evening prayers on April 21.
And Yusuf Ali Sohagh, a student at Mymensingh Homoeopathic Medical College, was picked up from his home early on April 20 by a group of seven to eight, all wearing police uniform, according to the general diary filed by his family.
Family members of all the four alleged law enforcers were behind the abduction.
The three that went missing on April 19 from Kamalapur Railway Station in the capital are Suhel Rana, his brother Morshed Alam and Basir Uddin. They are all from Bhaluka of Mymensingh. It could not be immediately known why they came to Dhaka.
Family members said they did not file any case but informed the police verbally about their going missing.
On February 23, an armed gang of 10-15, all masked, ambushed a prison van in Trishal and snatched away three convicted JMB militants -- two of them on death rows. A policeman was killed in the ambush.
The attack on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway took place when the van carrying the three was going to Mymensingh to produce them before a court in a sedition case.
About five hours after the incident, police captured Rakib from Shakhipur of Tangail. He was killed in a "shootout" at Mirzapur of Tangail about 14 hours after his arrest.
Rakib and Salehin were sentenced to death and "Boma" Mizan to 37 years in prison in different cases. Salehin and "Boma" Mizan remain traceless since.
Asked to comment on Sabuj's claim that a Jubo League leader helped the militants flee, a top Rab official said they did not buy his claim. "An accused always tries to shift the blame on other people."
At the briefing, Sabuj said he runs a coaching centre named Jagaran Tutorial Home at Panchgao village at Bhaluka.
"One day a senior leader asked me over the phone to do a job. I and three of my friends met him. He told us that we have to pick one of his guests from Bhoradoba and drop him at Fulbaria. Six to seven youths will be needed for this task," he said.
Asked to name the senior leader, he said it was Ataur Rahman Kamal.
On February 23, he said, he was instructed from a microbus, which took part in the ambush, that a person would go to him from a prison van and he would have to take him to Fulbaria.
"Rakib was sent to Fulbaria on a motorbike through a dirt road," he said, adding that he did not know who took the other two as several groups were working for the job.
Contacted, Kamal, also a lecturer at Sonar Bangla Degree College at Batajorh, rejected Sabuj's claim outright.
"I'm a son of a freedom fighter. Question of my doing such a heinous act does not arise," he told The Daily Star.
His father Mujibur Rahman, vice-president of Bhaluka upazila AL, said, "We were shocked to hear Sabuj's claim that my son was involved in snatching the JMB militants. We have good relations with Sabuj's family."
Sabuj's father Shamsuddin Munshi said Kamal could not do such a thing. "Sabuj might have mentioned his [Kamal's] name because of the pressure on him."
Of the eight arrested, five people on three motorbikes led by Sabuj were trailing the prison van, said Rab's Legal and Media Wing Director ATM Habibur Rahman.
The five were Yousuf Ali Sohag, 20, Morshed Alam, 22, Suhel Rana, 28, Swapan, 28, and Elias, 34.
The two other arrested are Anwar Hossain, 40, and Basir Uddin, 20.
They are manpower brokers, and they tried to send Suhel and Morshed abroad after the incident, Habibur added.
He would not give the dates of their arrests, saying it would compromise the investigation. But he did not explain how disclosing the dates of arrest would "compromise" the inquiry.
Habib said each of the six were supposed to get Tk 20,000 for the job.
Describing the ambush, he said as soon as the prison van reached Signboard point of Trishal, a motorbike and other vehicles waylaid it.
The militants who were already at the spot started shooting and exploding crude bombs. As Rakib escaped from the van, he was taken to Fulbaria on a bike belonging to one of the arrestees, Habib said.
He added Rakib knew beforehand the arrangement for his safe passage.
"Several groups took part in the operation but three groups were assigned particularly for ensuring safe passages for the three JMB leaders," he said, adding that the groups did not know each other's mission.
Asked about the whereabouts of Salehin and "Boma" Mizan, Habib said they are working to catch them.