An eyewitness to an alleged shootout between drug peddlers and Rapid Action Battalion-7 in Chattogram's Muradpur area has been missing for almost five months.
The missing person -- Jahid Hasan, 18, son of late Md Yasin of Koddartek, Charlakkha union -- was the driver of Jubo League leader Asim Roy Babu, who was killed in the “shootout” on October 12.
Jahid was picked up two days after the incident by people in plainclothes from his aunt's home in Isanagar of Karnaphuli upazila. He has been missing since then, said family members.
They added that after the “shootout”, Jahid had spoken to several media outlets -- Somoy Television, Cplus TV, and a local online television channel of Chattogram -- as a witness.
“We were coming from Riazuddin Bazar at around 11:30pm….. When we reached Muradpur railway crossing, our car was intercepted by the railway crossing barrier.
After five minutes, several people came to our car and when my owner [Asim] asked them who they were…. the shootout began…. Soon after the gunfight started, I managed to escape,” Jahid had told the media.
Hosne Ara Begum, Jahid's mother, in late February, told The Daily Star, “My son worked as Asim's driver for six months. On the day of the 'shootout', he returned home around 3:30am, clearly frightened. Jahid told us about the gunfight, and later heard about the death of Asim from his wife over phone.”
“We panicked as my son had spoken to the media about how he ran away after the shooting had begun.
“On October 14, I went to my sister's home with my two sons and daughter to attend a programme,” she added.
Jahid's elder brother Mehedi Hasan Biplob said, “Jahid, my mother and I were sleeping in my aunt's home. We woke to the sound of some men speaking outside around 3:30am.”
“About 4 to 5 people introducing themselves as our guests asked us to open the door,” said Mehedi, a carpenter.
When Mehedi asked again for their identity, they said they were “people from the administration”.
“They kept asking questions about Jahid.”
During their verbal altercation, Mehedi's uncle Md Faruk opened the door. All the men were in plainclothes.
“They immediately grabbed Jahid and his cousin Faisal, and showed firearms strapped to their waists to intimidate us.”
Mehedi said he remembers seeing them shove Jahid into a black SUV and he got the partial number plate, 13-3564. He could not remember the name of the city mentioned on the plate.
The Daily Star attempted to track the vehicle with the help of BRTA Chittagong, but could not without the name of the city.
Faisal was put into a white microbus.
Their neighbours, who had gathered outside amid the commotion, witnessed the incident.
On February 23, this correspondent tried to talk to some of the neighbours who had witnessed the “kidnapping” but they refused to makes comments.
Faisal was released in the city's Bakshir Bit Road area under Kotwali Police Station half an hour after they were picked up.
Mehedi said they went to Rab-7 Chandgaon camp the next day to know the whereabouts of Jahid but Rab officials said they did not detain anyone.
Later, Mehedi went to file a General Diary with Karnaphuli Police Station. “I filed the GD in the morning mentioning that Rab men picked up my brother. But in the afternoon, the police gave me a copy of the GD that did not mention Rab.”
Hosne Ara submitted a written complaint to Rab-7 headquarters on October 28. “I went to Rab-7 headquarters, but they did not allow me to even enter or talk to anyone.”
When asked on February 24, Sub-Inspector Fazle Rabbi Faisal of Karnaphuli Police Station, also the investigation officer of the missing person case, said, “We are investigating the matter and have forwarded Jahid's photo to other police stations.”
When contacted, Rab-7 Commanding Officer Lt Col Miftah Uddin Ahmed said, “Rab is also looking for the driver, as we did not find him after the gunfight incident.”
Regarding Hosne Ara's complaint, he said, “If we arrest anyone, we hand them over to the local police station within 24 hours.”
In October, Mimtanur Rahman, senior assistant director of Rab-7 media wing, said a Rab team received a tip-off that drug peddlers would pass through Bibirhat Railway Gate area in Muradpur.
As the team signalled a car to pull over at a temporary check point, its passengers opened fire on the Rab personnel. The Rab team retaliated and the shooting ended after sometime.
The Rab team found bullet-hit Asim lying injured on the spot. He was sent to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where doctors declared him dead.
Mimtanur had said four Rab personnel, including the deputy director of Rab-7 (Feni camp), were shot during the “gunfight”.
The Rab official said two others travelling in the car managed to flee.
He also claimed to have recovered two pistols, three magazines and 12,000 yaba pills from the vehicle.