Despite concerns from rights defenders home and abroad, deaths in “crossfire” continues to rise in the country with 170 people killed in so-called gunfights since January.
In the last five days, eight people -- three Rohingya youths, three alleged drug dealers and two alleged robbers -- were killed in “gunfights” with police, Rab and BGB in different districts.
These incidents happened at a time when the country was in a festive mood for Eid.
On an average, such incidents left 34 people dead every month so far this year, according to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).
The rights body said 365 people were killed in “crossfire” with law enforcers last year, meaning 30 people lost their lives every month. The number was the highest for a single year since “crossfire” deaths began in the country in 2004.
Most of those killed this year and last year were alleged drug dealers. The number of “crossfire” killing started to shoot up after law enforcers began a crackdown on drugs in May last year.
The second highest number (354) was recorded in 2005 and the number had stayed below the 200 mark every year since 2007, according to the ASK.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Prof Mizanur Rahman, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, said, “This [crossfire killing] is something that is totally unexpected in a democratic society.”
He claimed that anyone could be apprehended and imprisoned any moment and that there was no rule and law. “There is nothing to protect the helpless individuals from the onslaught of the law enforcement agencies. This is not the Bangladesh we expected,” he said.
“We hope that those who make policies and hold the power will sincerely look into the situation and put a halt to extrajudicial killings,” Prof Mizan added.
KILLED IN FIVE DAYS
In Cox’s Bazar, three Rohingya youths were killed in an alleged gunfight with police over the kidnap of a minor girl in Teknaf upazila early Friday.
Police identified the dead as Ukhiya Rohingya camp inhabitants Shamsul Alam, 35, and Nur Alam, 21, and Leda Camp inhabitant Habib, 20.
Pradip Kumar Das, officer-in-charge of Teknaf Police Station, said a three-year-old girl was abducted several days ago. The kidnappers then demanded Tk 5 lakh as ransom from her family.
After the family sought help, police launched drives to rescue her.
The kidnappers released the girl on June 2.
The Rohingya youths were arrested around 11:30pm on Thursday for their suspected involvement in the kidnapping, UNB reported, quoting the OC.
Later around 1:45am, police took them to an area behind the Teknaf’s Leda Camp to recover firearms. At that time, some attackers, who were already holed up there, opened fire on police triggering a “gunfight”, the OC said.
The three were killed in the “gunfight”, the police officer claimed, adding that they also recovered three light guns and eight cartridges from the scene.
In Cumilla’s Sadar upazila, an alleged drug smuggler, Helal Uddin, 28, was killed in a “shootout” with a patrol team of the Border Guard Bangla-desh (BGB) around 2:45am on Friday.
Tipped-off, the BGB team were conducting an anti-drug operation when a gang of drug smugglers opened fire on them. The BGB men fired back in self-defence, says a press release from BGB-10.
After the “gunfight”, the BGB men searched the area and found bullet-riddled Helal. They also claimed to have recovered 3,000 yaba pills from his possession.
Helal was rushed to Cumilla Medical College Hospital where he was declared dead.
Abu Salam Mia, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station, said Helal was accused in seven to eight cases, including drug smuggling.
In Thakurgaon, another suspected drug trader, Monirul Islam Babul, 35, was killed in another alleged gunfight with BGB members at Pirganj upazila early Thursday.
Lt Col Gazi Nahid Uz Zaman, commanding officer of BGB-42, said a BGB team arrested Babul on Wednesday night and recovered 112 bottles of Phensidyl from his possession.
Later, taking Babul along, the team conducted a drive in the area 2:00am to recover more drugs. But, sensing their presence, Babul’s associates opened fire on them, forcing them to fire back that triggered a “gun-fight”, he claimed.
At one stage, Babul was caught in the line of fire and died while others managed to flee, he claimed.
The BGB members also recovered 75 bottles of Phensidyl, one firearm, Tk 22,000 in cash and a sharp weapon from the spot, he further claimed.
In Chattogram, two suspected robbers were killed early Tuesday in what Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) claimed was a gunfight on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway in Chhoto Kumira area in Sitakunda upazila.
The identities of the dead aged between 25 and 35 were yet to be con-firmed.
Tipped off, a patrol team of Rab-7 went to the area while a group of robbers were taking preparation to commit robbery. Sensing Rab presence, the robbers opened fire on them, Rab claimed.
Rab members retaliated with gunfire triggering a “gunfight”. At one stage, two bullet-hit bodies were recovered from the spot while the other robbers managed to flee, it claimed.
The force also claimed to have recovered three guns and 31 bullets from the spot.
In Gazipur, a suspected drug trader identified as Ismail Hossain, 40, was killed in a “gunfight” with Rab in Tongi on Monday night.
“A Rab team was conducting an anti-narcotics raid in the river port area when drug dealers opened fire on it,” said Kamal Hossain, the officer-in-charge of Tongi East Police Station.
“Ismail was killed during the gunfight,” he said, adding that an arm, bullets and several thousand yaba pills were recovered from the spot.
[Our Correspondents in Cox’s Bazar, Cumilla, Thakurgaon and Chattogram contributed to this report]