The families of the sensational seven-murder victims in Narayanganj have been living in fear of attacks by prime accused Nur Hossain's men since he was brought back from India five months ago.
Family members and many locals said Nur's gang members, who went into hiding after the killings, have re-emerged and regained their control of the area.
“I often see armed men wandering in front of my house. I fear that I might meet the same fate of my brother,” said Abdus Salam, brother of slain panel mayor Nazrul Islam of Narayanganj City Corporation.
He said he did not go to the hearing of the murder case on April 18, as several of Nur's men, holding sticks and iron rods, took position in front of his house.
“I was too scared to get out of my house and thought I might be abducted and killed like my brother,” Salam told The Daily Star last night.
He alleged that he on several occasions informed police about his fears, but it fell on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, prosecution lawyer Sakhawat Hossain alleged that Nur during the hearing in the case on Monday put his index finger on his lips, apparently signalling at the witnesses to keep mum.
The seven were abducted allegedly by some members of Rapid Action Battalion from Dhaka-Narayanganj Link Road two years ago.
Nur, who was a ward councillor of Narayanganj city back then, allegedly bribed the Rab men for killing Nazrul, with whom he reportedly had a longstanding political feud.
The seven-murder outraged the nation with Nazrul's father-in-law Shahidul Islam alleging that the Rab men had taken Tk 6 crore from Nur to kill Nazrul.
Soon afterwards, Nur fled to India and got caught by law enforcers there for illegal entry. The government brought him back on November 12 last year.
The victims were Nazrul Islam, his driver and three associates, and senior lawyer Chandan Sarkar and his driver.
Of the 35 accused in the murder case, 12 including eight Rab men are still at large. The rest are now behind bars.
Shahidul told this newspaper that they were concerned about their security. At least 10 other witnesses of the case, many of whom are family members of the victims, said they felt threatened by the presence of Nur's gang members in the locality.
Soon after he was brought back, Nur told journalists that he would not be in the prison for more than three years.
During his stay in India, his cadres and extended family members, who used to be his associates, also fled the area, locals of Shiddhirganj said.
But they reappeared and allegedly resumed extorting businessmen, controlling business of garment by-products and the trade of sand in the last couple of months, they added.
The residents said most of the activities of Nur's associates are allegedly being organised by his nephew Shahjalal Badal, who is the councillor of Ward-3 of Narayanganj City Corporation.
Local businessmen alleged that about 200-250 cadres of Badal have been skimming off the top of the income of some people ranging from the owners of battery-run rickshaws to owners of under-construction buildings and illegal occupants of government wetlands.
Officer-in-Charge Sharafat Ullah of Shiddhirganj Police Station said the owner of an under construction building earlier this month had filed a case against 11 people with the police station, accusing them of demanding Tk 5 lakh as extortion money.
Probing the case, police found that Haji Yasin Miah, a close aide of Nur, was involved in the extortion.
Locals said Yasin, general secretary of Siddhirganj AL, was named in one of the two cases filed in connection with the sever-murder.
Tofael Ahmed, general secretary of Ward-3 unit Jubo League, who has political rivalry with Badal, alleged that he was critically injured when Badal's cadres beat him up four months ago.
He filed a case against 16 of them, mentioning Badal as the prime accused. But police only arrested a couple of Badal's men who were soon released on bail.
“Despite being a political leader, I feel helpless. The state of the witnesses of the murder case is understandably even worse,” he observed.
Khandaker Muhit Uddin, Narayanganj superintendent of police, said his force took action whenever they heard of complaints and conducted frequent raids to maintain law and order.
Contacted, Badal refuted the allegations made against him. He claimed that a vested quarter was trying to tarnish his image as he is Nur's nephew and also an incumbent councillor.
Despite making repeated attempts, this newspaper could not reach Yasin over the phone for his comment.