Police launch drive against militants

Weeklong clampdown comes in response to recent targeted killings

In the wake of recent spate of targeted killings, including that of SP Babul Akter's wife on Sunday, the police department is beginning a weeklong clampdown on militants across the country today.

The decision came from a meeting of top police officials with Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque in the chair at the police headquarters in the capital yesterday.

In the meeting, the IGP directed all concerned to hunt operatives of militant outfits and also deal all types of criminals with an iron fist to stop the killing spree and maintain law and order.

Officials say the anti-militancy operation is being launched as the department is convinced that militants have gained ground and that's why they could go as far as attacking a police family.

Police and the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) will carry out raids separately. If they feel necessary, they will do it jointly. Besides, members of Border Guard Bangladesh will join the drives in the bordering areas, sources in the headquarters said.

The meeting participants, with the rank of superintendent of police (SP) and above, were asked to update the lists of militants immediately in their districts, ensure strong vigilance on different religious institutions and security of foreigners and maintain a watch over tenants and strangers. 

The police boss categorically said the officers-in-charge of police stations will have to take the responsibilities for any sort of violence or militant attack in their respective areas, meeting sources said.

The field-level officers have been directed to know the present whereabouts of all suspected militants in their areas, a top police officer said. “We have been also asked to make a list of militants in hiding.”

Another top official said, “Written instructions will be sent to districts regarding the drive.”

In the meeting, many of the participants admitted that law and order has deteriorated across the country and voiced concern over the rise in recent secret killings. They also discussed the brutal killing of SP Babul Akter's wife Mahmuda Khanam Mitu in Chittagong.

Some police officials at the meeting suggested that police should be “more aggressive” in tackling militancy as it has emerged as a major security threat.

Over the last two years or so, suspected militants have attacked and killed university professors, writers, publishers, secular bloggers, gay rights activists, foreigners, policemen and members of religious minorities, including Shia and Sufi Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

At least seven people have become victims of such targeted killings since May 1. They include a Christian grocer and a Hindu priest.

Contacted, IGP Shahidul Hoque told The Daily Star that law enforcers will conduct drives against the listed militants and suspects.

“We have a list of militants involved in terror incidents across the country since 2004. Many of them were arrested and charge-sheeted. Many were acquitted, granted bail or released. Besides, we have a list of suspected militants prepared by different intelligence agencies,” he added.  

“Primarily, it is decided that the drive will last for the next seven days, but it may be extended.”

The IGP said police will adopt a special strategy in conducing drives in militant-prone districts.

According to sources, the districts include Gazipur, Joypurhat, Gaibandha, Bogra, Jhenidah, Natore, Sirajganj, some districts of Khulna and Chittagong divisions.    

Anwar Latif Khan, additional director general (operations) of Rab, told this newspaper, “We will carry out large-scale drives in the militant-prone districts in northern area and in Khulna and Chittagong.”

Some officials, however, said police have already begun crackdowns against militants after the killing of the SP's wife.

At least nine people, including five JMB men, were killed in “shootouts” or “gunfights” with law enforcement agencies in the last three consecutive days. 

“Following the directives, we have strengthened our vigilance, increased the number of checkpoints,” said a SP preferring anonymity.

“Especially, we are frisking bikers as militants and criminals in many attacks used bikes to flee away.”