In a shocking turn of events, the bodies of Narayanganj city councillor Nazrul Islam and five others were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river yesterday, three days after seven people, including Nazrul, were kidnapped in broad daylight in Narayanganj.
The six victims were killed and their bodies were dumped into the river in similar manner. The murderers cut the victims' bellies and then tied the bodies to sacks full of bricks before throwing into water, according to police.
They were blindfolded, and their hands and legs were tied with ropes, said law enforcers.
Police suspect the same gang was behind the abductions and the killings.
Among the dead are Chandan Sarkar, senior lawyer at Narayanganj District Judge's Court, and his driver Ibrahim.
Two other victims were identified as Nazrul's aides Moniruzzaman Swapan, local Jubo League activist, and Tajul Islam, president of Siddhirganj unit of Sheikh Russell Jatiya Shishu Kishore Parishad.
The identity of the other could not be known.
The injuries on the victims' bodies and heads were caused by heavy objects. They had been strangled, said Asaduzzaman, resident medical officer of General (Victoria) Hospital, who performed autopsies on the victims.
He said they might have been killed 48 to 72 hours earlier.
Locals of Shantinagar in Kalagachhiya union first noticed two bloated bodies floating amid water hyacinth near the river bank around 3:00pm, and informed the police.
The law enforcers then launched a search operation, and found by the evening four more bodies floating in the river.
The bodies were so decomposed that the victims' relatives found it difficult to identify those.
Nazrul's younger brother Abdus Salam identified the councillor's body by his clothes. The other victims were identified by the special marks on their bodies, and clothes.
The relatives of five of the victims pointed fingers at ward-4 councillor Nur Hossain, and Siddhirganj Thana Awami League general secretary Hazi Yasin, who are aides to AL lawmaker Shamim Osman.
Locals and victims' family members alleged that the duo run drugs racket in the area.
Nazrul's wife Selina Islam filed an abduction case against Nur, Yasin and four others on Monday.
“Oh Allah … what Shamim Osman has done … the day before his [Nazrul] abduction, he met Shamim Osman and pleaded to bhai [Shamim] to protect him, saying he would go to the court the next day,” Selina told reporters after her husband's body was recovered.
Shamim Osman, however, refuted the allegations of any involvement in the incident.
“She is not in right frame of mind now. My brother died the very day she found her husband's body. I can realise what it feels when people lose their dear ones,” he said, referring to the death of his elder brother and JP lawmaker Nasim Osman.
Chandan's son-in-law Ranjit Debnath said his father-in-law had no enmity with anyone.
The news of the murder of the six caused widespread anger among locals in Narayanganj.
Angry locals blocked the Dhaka-Chittagong highway at Sanarpar in Siddhirganj and also Dhaka-Narayanganj link road around 4:00pm. Vehicular movement on the highway remained suspended till 3:00am today.
They also damaged and set ablaze vehicles.
Around 7:00pm, locals set fire to Shams Filling Station owned by Hazi Yasin at Mouchak on Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
Blaming the administration for deterioration of law and order in Narayanganj, City Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy told a private TV channel last night, “If it had acted promptly immediately after the abductions three days back, it would have been possible to rescue them alive”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed the law enforcement agencies to arrest the culprits as soon as possible.
State Minister for Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal informed reporters about it after a meeting with the PM at the Gono Bhaban.
“The government is trying its best to arrest the culprits,” he said.
Nazrul, his three aides and driver were abducted near Adalat Para on Sunday while they were returning by a car from Narayanganj District Judge's Court. Earlier, he had appeared in the court in connection with a case.
Police found Nazrul's car abandoned in Rajendrapur area of Gazipur that night.
At about the same time, lawyer Chandan and his driver Ibrahim were kidnapped from the court area in Narayanganj. Chandan's car was found abandoned in the capital's Gulshan area.
In the meantime, the National Human Rights Commission expressed concern over the recent incidents of abductions and extrajudicial killings.
“We have repeatedly asked the government to be very strict in dealing with the issues of abduction, forced disappearance and extra-judicial killing … But such incidents keep recurring and have created a sense of insecurity among people,” Kazi Reazul Hoque, full-time member of the commission, told The Daily Star last night.
He said they will discuss the issue at the next meeting on May 5, and request the government to take effective steps to “dispel fear from people's mind”.
Akbar Ali Khan, former adviser to a caretaker government, said, “We are very worried about the current situation … we want to see it improved.”
The government has taken some steps. But it should do to more, or else the problems will deepen, he said.
Narayanganj Superintendent of Police Syed Nurul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday that he had received a withdrawal order.
Nurul, Deputy Commissioner Manoj Kanti Baral, Rab-11 Commanding Officer Lt Col Tareque Sayeed Mohammad, and the OCs of Fatullah and Siddhirganj police stations Akhtar Hossain and Abdul Matin were withdrawn after the abduction of the seven.
(Our Narayanganj correspondent contributed to this report)