Around 26 hours after his abduction, Narayanganj businessman Saiful Islam was freed late last night near the National Mausoleum in Nabinagar of Savar.
His release came following daylong angry demonstrations in Narayanganj, which had already been fuming over the abduction and brutal killing of seven people, including city councillor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Sarker.
The abductors took off Saiful's blindfold and untied his hands and legs and kicked him out of a car about 100 yards from the Rab camp in Nabinagar around 11:30pm.
On information, the elite force took him to its camp and held a press briefing there at 1:30am today.
Rab Media Wing Director Habibur Rahman said they suspect Saiful was known to the kidnappers.
However, who they are and why they abducted him remain unclear.
Speaking at the briefing, Saiful said five to six people came from behind and called him by his name and dragged him into a car around 10:00pm on Thursday.
The 35-year-old was returning home on foot from a sawmill at Shanarpar in Narayanganj, where he went after closing his office to meet a relative.
Soon after forcing him into the car, the abductors blindfolded him and forced him on the floor of the car.
He said he lost his sense within 10 minutes. “When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on a dirt floor.”
Saiful, owner of Samia Rice Agency at Sonamia Market in Adamji, said his captors did not torture him or demand any ransom.
The abduction and release of Saiful came at a time when Narayanganj is reeling from last week's abduction and brutal killing of seven people.
The latest incident happened barely a day after the bodies of Nazrul Islam, Chandan Sarker and five others were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river. The seven were kidnapped in broad daylight in Narayanganj on Sunday.
Nazrul and his four associates and Chandan and his driver were kidnapped separately along with their cars, but around the same time soon after they came out of the court area. Police suspect the same group was behind their abduction and killing.
Narayanganj district lawyers association yesterday called a daylong hartal in the district for tomorrow, protesting the killing of Chandan Sarker. The BNP, Communist Party of Bangladesh and Bangladesher Samajtantrik Dal extended their support to the strike.
Earlier in the day, Saiful's wife Afrin Sultana said the kidnappers demanded Tk 20 lakh in ransom over the mobile phone of Hannan, manager of her husband's office.
The business office of Nur Hossain in Simrail of Naryanganj is on fire after it was set alight by angry locals yesterday. After the bodies of Narayanganj city councillor Nazrul Islam and five others were found floating in the Shitalakkhya on Wednesday, family members pointed the finger at ward councillor Nur Hossain and Siddhirganj Awami League leader Yasin, both aides to AL lawmaker Shamim Osman. Photo: star
"My husband is a simple businessman and is not involved in politics," she said.
Afrin said Hannan might be involved in the abduction. "Why the kidnappers phoned him [Hannan] for money, and not me?"
Police arrested Hannan for interrogation.
But law enforcers have yet to arrest anyone in the case for the abduction of Nazrul and his four aides.
Two prime accused in the case are Nur Hossain, councillor of ward-4 of Narayanganj City Corporation, and Hazi Mohammad Yasin, general secretary of Siddhirganj AL.
Police said the two are on the run.
Thousands join the namaz-e-janaza on Dhaka-Chittagong highway yesterday for Nazrul Islam and his driver Jahangir who were abducted, murdered and dumped into the Shitalakkhya. Photo: Star
Torn out by agitated locals, a billboard bearing the photos of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nur Hossain, an accused in the case filed for the abduction. Photo: Star
On Thursday, angry locals set fire to two offices of Nur at Shimrail on Dhaka-Chittagong highway after a namaz-e-janaza of Nazrul. They also vandalised Nur's sand trading office near Kanchpur bridge.
Khandaker Golam Faruk, additional deputy inspector general (Dhaka range) of police, said they are trying to arrest the accused. "Measures have been taken so that they cannot flee the country."
Earlier on April 16, armed men kidnapped Abu Bakar Siddique, husband of prominent environment lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan, from Narayanganj.
He, however, was freed by his captors about 33 hours after the abduction. Law enforcers are yet to identify the culprits and ascertain their motive.
Yesterday, several hundred people took to the streets in Shanarpar area, demanding immediate rescue of Saiful, halting traffic movement on Dhaka-Chittagong highway for an hour till 1:00pm.
The agitators left the highway on an assurance from the law enforcers to this end.
Locals gave law enforcers an ultimatum to rescue Saiful by yesterday evening.
But the law enforcers failed, and the locals took to the streets again, trying to block Dhaka-Chittagong highway around 6:30pm. Police thwarted the attempt by charging batons, firing tear shells and blank shots.
Iqbal Hossain, a resident of Shanarpar, said incidents of abduction and mugging are taking place frequently in the district lately, but the law enforcers are failing to check these.
"We get frightened to see unknown faces and new vehicles in our area," he said, demanding the arrest of the real culprits. "Otherwise, there will be an outburst of public anger."
Narayanganj has become a terrorised city, said Tajul Islam, a resident of Signboard area.
"This is an unliveable situation. How can seven people be abducted in broad daylight? We are feeling unsafe.
"We urge the prime minister and the home minister to take proper steps so that we can live here. We want security of our lives," he said.
A group of Supreme Court lawyers yesterday visited Chandan's house at Jalkuri in Narayanganj and conveyed their sympathy to the family.
After the visit, noted jurist Shahdeen Malik demanded withdrawal of all Rab officials from Narayanganj as people have lost their faith in the force.
He demanded that a new Rab office be set up there with new officers. The eminent lawyer also wanted an immediate end to arrests by plainclothes men.
Angry locals vandalise an office of Nur Hossain. Photo: Star
Vice-president of Siddhirganj AL, Nur Hossain made news headlines in the past for his sand trading by filling up the Shitalakkhya and extortion in and around the area. There are allegations that he and his associates control the drug trade there.
He faces 22 cases in Fatullah and Siddhirganj police stations, including six for murder, according to media reports.
Nazrul's family alleged the Nur Hossain was behind the abduction and the killing of Nazrul and his four aides. They say Nur has done this over past rivalries with Nazrul, a claim Nur rejected before going into hiding.
A truck helper-turned driver, he joined the BNP in 1992. With the help of Shamim Osman, now an AL MP, Nur joined the AL after the party came to power in 1996, sources said.
He was not in the area from 2001-2008, as he was on the police blacklist, media reports say.
During the 2007-2008 caretaker government rule, a red notice was sent to the Interpol for his arrest.
He returned to the area after the AL came to power again following the 2008 elections. Subsequently, he got elected as a councillor in the first Narayanganj city polls in 2011.
A buying house employee in Narayanganj has been missing for the last two days, family members said.
The victim is Taiyabur Rahman from Siddhirganj in Kadamtali area.
His father Ekhlasur Rahman said Taiyabur did not return home after he went to his office in the capital's Mirpur on Wednesday.
The family filed a general diary with Siddhirganj Police Station yesterday.
(Our Narayanganj correspondent contributed to this report.)