Seventeen days after their abduction, law enforcers early yesterday rescued four staff of Bi Technology and a college student from the jungle of Merung at Dighinala upazila in the hilly district of Khagrachhari.
Kidnappers released the five unhurt and without any ransom although, according to the intelligence sources, they had demanded Tk 3 crore from Bi Technology for the hostages' safe return.
Police say the kidnappers might have given up on their plans due to the massive search operation launched by law enforcement agencies. The agencies are still going on with the drive to arrest the abductors.
Additional Police Superintendent of Rangamati Mohammad Habibur Rahman said personnel of the district unit Directorate General of Forces Intelligence had rescued the abductees around 4:30am, about three hours after they had been freed in Merung border area. The rescued were then handed over to police.
The released are: Assistant Engineer of Bi Technology Akhter Hossain, its technicians Hemayet Uddin, Imrul and Suja Miah, and Abdul Mojid, a second-year student of Khagrachhari Government College.
They were handed over to their families soon after their statements had been recorded before a Rangamati court.
According to the rescued, the abduction took place on July 8 in Baribindughat area of Baghaichhari upazila where they were installing a tower for state-run mobile phone operator Teletalk.
Initially the kidnappers had picked up six people, including caretaker of the tower Montu Chakma. But the very night of the incident Montu was freed.
Akhter Hossain, one of the abductees, said the kidnappers had first taken them to Rupkari area of Baghaichhari on seven to eight motorbikes and then shifted them to a boat blindfolded. This was where the victims had lost trace of their whereabouts.
He said the gang had kept changing their positions, sometimes on foot and other times on boat, to dodge law enforcers. During the time, the kidnappers had provided them with rice and bamboo shoot curry twice a day.
"I was deeply shocked thinking of what could be in store for us. Now that we are freed, I feel very happy," said Akhter Hossain.
"Last night, after walking for miles, the kidnappers suddenly told us to descend a hill in Merung. We understood that we were being freed," he said, adding, "We only know them [kidnappers] by their faces."
Meanwhile, at a press briefing in her office yesterday, Superintendent of Rangamati Police Amena Begum said, "Soon after the abduction, we received specific information about the kidnappers and tried to pursue them to free the hostages."
She said the number of kidnappers might be between six and eight. She suspects although the abductors had claimed to be members of United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), it was not right.
On July 11, Assistant Engineer of Bi Technology Monirul Islam lodged a case with Baghaichhari Police Station.
On Sunday, police arrested Montu Chakma, who was the first to be released by the kidnappers, and Kironmoy Chakma, 42, son of Surya Kumar Chakma of Babupara village in Baghaichhari, suspecting their involvement in the abduction.
They had been produced before a court and placed on a five-day remand. Their remand ended on Thursday.
On February 7, two employees of Grameenphone were kidnapped from Kutukchhari in sadar upazila of the district. They were also released later.
(Our correspondents from Khagrachhari and Rangamati contributed to the story.)