Transnational syndicates are smuggling firearms from one Indian state into another through Bangladesh territory, with a border haat in Sylhet being used as a key transit route, police said.
They are using the Gowainghat point as a new route to smuggle the arms, some of which are sold to criminal gangs in Bangladesh.
For the first time in Bangladesh, investigators found sophisticated arms like 12-chamber revolvers smuggled into the country, according to sources in the Illegal Arms Recovery Team of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit.
The CTTC unit got the sensational information following the arrest of three alleged smugglers on Thursday night from the capital’s Sayedabad.
The unit also recovered a 0.22 bore 12-chamber revolver and two 0.32 bore six-chamber revolvers loaded with bullets, said Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner (Illegal Arms Recovery Team) of the unit.
The arrestees are Abdus Sahid, 40, his friend Ansar Miah, 40, and their carrier Dolon Miah, 38. Police are now interrogating them.
“The local smugglers in guise of traders go to the Gowainghat border haat with some goods to dodge the law enforcers and received the arms from the Indian suppliers waiting inside the haat,” Jahangir said, quoting the arrestees.
They later get the arms out of the haat hiding those among various goods, he added.
Earlier on July 1, the CTTC unit arrested two arms smugglers -- Kamal Hosen, 35, and Saidul Islam Majumder alias Rubel, 30 -- from the capital’s Sayedabad area and recovered an AK-22 rifle from their possession.
“That firearm also entered Bangladesh from India, and law enforcers are investigating where it was going,” said a CTTC official.
Brig Gen AFM Jahangir Alam, additional director general of Border Guard Bangladesh, said they never heard about arms smuggling through the border haat before.
“We have strong vigilance in border points such as Chapainawabganj and Rajshahi, which are known as arms smuggling routes. We often recover illegal arms from these points,” he said.
“The smugglers may try to find new routes to smuggle arms due to strong vigilance at other points. We will definitely look into the matter and take necessary actions,” he added.
In the past, smugglers mainly used Chapainawabganj, Beanpole and some other border points to smuggle illegal arms into Bangladesh, said a top official yesterday.
“They used to smuggle AK 22 and 9mm pistols through these points, and a big portion of the smuggled arms used to be sent to India again through Mymensingh border,” the official added, asking not to be named.
The smugglers used to charge around Tk 80,000 for a 9mm pistol and Tk 1.8 lakh for an AK 22, which is made in Munger in Bihar State, said the official.
As for the new route through Sylhet, the gang members first receive the arms from Indian suppliers in the border haat. The local smugglers then hand those over to their accomplices in Dhaka and Brahmanbaria, said ADC Jahangir of the CTTC unit.
“Later, the second group sell some of these arms to local criminals and send the rest to smugglers of different Indian states again,” said Jahangir, quoting the arrestees.
Sources said these arms are sent to India through the border in Chapainawabganj.
Police are now working to gather details about the new routes and the syndicates.
According to CTTC officials, Shahid is the president of Jogonnathpur thana unit of Swechchhasebak Dal and his friend Ansar is the joint convener of Jubo Dal of the same unit in Sylhet. They got involved in smuggling two years ago.
Shahid, who was involved in stone business in Bisnakandi in Sylhet’s Gowainghat, met a person named Arab Ali, 40, two years ago. Arab asked him to start arms smuggling to make some easy money, they added.
Shahid then brought in Ansar. Together they supplied their arms to one Amin Mia, 42, either in Brahmanbaria or Dhaka. The third arrestee, Dolon, is a CNG-driver who used to transport those arms for Amin.
The arrestees told investigators that they mainly smuggled revolvers after buying them from Arab Ali for Tk 20,000 each. Arab used to receive the arms from an Indian national, who live in Lakat Bazar just across the border. Officials are yet to get details about the man.
Amin used to buy those for Tk 40,000-50,000 each and then sell them to local criminals or the Indian smugglers for Tk 70,000 each, officials said.
Dolon got Tk 2,000 each for carrying these arms.
A top police official said they came to know that the Indian syndicate members sometimes enter Bangladesh to take care of the shipments.
The arrestees used innovative techniques to smuggle the arms from one place to another.
The smugglers always use codewords while talking among themselves -- “Baro er Mal” for 12-chamber revolvers and “Choy er Mal” for six-chamber revolvers, said CTTC unit official.
For the bullets, they used terms “small tree”, “seeds”, “coin” or sometimes “baby goat”.
For carrying, they used biscuit packets, rice or flour sacks, oil containers or even vegetable sacks to avoid being arrested, according to CTTC officials.