Less than 19 hours after his escape attempt, JMB militant Rakib Hasan Russell alias Hafez Mahmud was killed in “crossfire” at Mirzapur of Tangail early yesterday, something many feared would happen.
Rakib was one of the three top Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh men who were snatched from prison van in a Hollywood-style ambush on a highway Sunday morning. He was captured five hours later when his getaway car crashed.
He was killed hours after journalists asked Deputy Inspector General of Police SM Mahfuzul Haq Nuruzzaman about the possibility of Rakib getting killed in so-called shootouts or crossfire, just like many other arrested criminals.
“We will do everything for his security,” the IGP had told journalists Sunday evening at Sakhipur Police Station in Tangail.
After Rakib, who had been sentenced to death for murder, was captured Sunday afternoon, his mother started crying saying, “My son will be killed”, reported the Bangla daily Prothom Alo.
No journalist was allowed to talk to Rakib. But Detective Branch of police and other law enforcement agencies interrogated Rakib at Sakhipur Police Station for over 12 hours.
According to police, Rakib was in the custody of Sakhipur police before he was taken to Beltoli Ceramics area in Mirzapur upazila around 4:30am yesterday “to arrest JMB militants”.
A joint team of Mymensingh and Tangail police took the handcuffed Rakib there “on information that some JMB men were hiding there”, Officer-in-Charge Golam Mostofa of Mirzapur Police Station told our Tangail correspondent.
He claimed that JMB men sprayed bullets on the police team to snatch Rakib away again. The police retaliated and Rakib got seriously injured during the half-an-hour-long gunfight, he claimed.
Rakib was hit by three bullets and was taken to Mirzapur Kumudini Hospital, where he was declared dead, the OC claimed.
Interestingly, nobody else had any bullet injuries. The three policemen -- Golam Moula, Mohammad Asaduzzaman and Mozammel Haque -- who were allegedly injured were admitted to Tangail Police Hospital, the OC said, adding that a shotgun, one bullet and three bullet shells had been recovered from the scene.
Rakib's killing happened amid an outcry of right activists at home and abroad against extra-judicial killings.
Dr. Mizanur Rahman, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, said the practice has continued even after the NHRC repeatedly raised its voice against it. He said the law enforcement agencies must explain what they achieve in such operations in which arrested persons accompany them.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said, "Judging by recent trends, I'm not at all surprised, though deeply disturbed, by the latest killing by crossfire. The law enforcement institutions have been doing everything possible to lead to the sharp erosion of public trust in them. This is very unfortunate and extremely damaging for the prospect of rule of law, justice and democratic accountability in the country."
About the killing of Rakib in a “shootout”, Home Secretary CQK Mustaq Ahmed said Rakib was a convicted notorious criminal. “Incidents [shootouts] take place whenever police conduct a drive to recover firearms based on their information. If we don't conduct drives to capture them and seize their weapons then the situation will be more precarious.”
A three-member medical board led by Rafiqul Islam, resident medical officer of Tangail General Hospital, conducted Rakib's autopsy. Firoz Mahmud, a first class magistrate in Tangail, did an inquest at Mirzapur Kumudini Hospital.
Rakib's body was handed over to his father Abdus Sobhan around 5:20pm. His body was taken to his village home in Beltoil of Melandaha upazila in Jamalpur.
JMB Majlish-e-Shura members Rakib and Salauddin Ahmed alias Salehin were on death row for the murder of Joseph Gani Gomez Mandal, a medicine trader of Melandaha in Jamalpur.
Rakib, Salauddin and JMB explosives expert “Boma Mizan” were snatched from police in the ambush at Trishal. The ambush left a policeman dead and two other cops injured.
Superintendent of Police Moinul Haque of Mymensingh told our correspondent there that 10 teams of joint forces were conducting drives in Mymensingh to capture Salauddin and “Boma Mizan”.
Meanwhile, Zakaria Islam and Mohammad Rasel, who were arrested in Tangail after the ambush, were placed on a 20-day remand each yesterday in two cases -- one under the Arms Act and the other under the Explosive Substances Act -- filed with Sakhipur Police Station.
At least 40 people were killed in “gunfights”, cop-firing and torture in different parts of the country since January this year, say statistics of the rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK).
In 2009, the number of extrajudicial killings stood at 229, in 2010 at 133, in 2011 at 100, in 2012 at 91 and in 2013 it was 208, says an ASK report.