Jamaat Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, now detained, masterminded the massacres in Santhia upazila and elsewhere in the district in 1971, a war crimes probe finds.
“In our primary investigation, we found that Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami was the mastermind behind the massacres,” said Md Abdur Razzak of the International Crimes Tribunal probe team.
The 11-member team led by Sayed Rejaur Rahman, prosecutor of the tribunal, wrapped up their three-day probe in Pabna yesterday.
The investigators visited killing spots in Baushgari of Demra union, Dhulauri, Karomja of Santhia yesterday and interviewed a number of war crimes witnesses.
Santhia is the birthplace and election constituency of Nizami.
Earlier on Thursday and Friday, the probe team visited places in Pabna sadar and Ishwardi upazila where Pakistan army and their collaborators had set up camps and torture centres during the Liberation War.
"In the investigation we learnt that in 1971 some eight to nine hundred innocent people were killed in Demra in a day and another 21 in Dhulauri," Razzak said.
Talking to the probe team, Md Shajahan, a Liberation War veteran, recalled the Dhulauri carnage.
“Following Nizami's directives, local collaborator Sattar razakar led the Pak army to Dhulauri on November 27, 1971. They killed 21 people including nine freedom fighters. The collaborators had attacked me but I was saved by the grace of the Almighty. Still I am carrying the wound in my body,” said the freedom fighter.
Another war hero, Jahurul Haque of Santhia claimed, “Nizami was the organiser of the collaborators. He used to make plans and direct his associates. Most of the war criminals are relatives and followers of Nizami.”
The collaborators, widely called razakars, led by Nizami committed mass killings in Baushgari, locals said. Asad, one of the razakars, led the occupation troops to the remote village where the Hindus had taken shelter.
In Baushgari some 350 people were killed on that night. The entire Demra was turned into a graveyard as eight to nine hundred people were martyred, locals told the team.
However, some people were chanting slogans in favour of Nizami while the witnesses were talking to the probe team. But nothing untoward had happened, investigators said.
Earlier in a press briefing on Friday, the probe team said Nizami, top-tyre Jamaat leader Abdus Subhan, also the former lawmaker from Pabna; and Moulana Ishaque, former minister of Pakistan government, were the leaders of collaborators.
Subhan and Ishaque are still at large. Asked about their arrest, prosecutor Abdur Rob Howladar said the tribunal investigators would decide when to arrest the duo.