Three professional killers had shot dead Italian aid worker Cesare Tavella as part of a conspiracy to create anarchy, put pressure on the government and send a message to foreigners that they are not safe in Bangladesh, police claimed yesterday.
They were hired by a “Boro Bhai” (big brother) to kill any white man living in the country. Tavella, a project manager of a Netherlands-based NGO, was not their specific target, police also said.
Twenty seven days after the murder in the capital's high-security diplomatic zone on September 28, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia yesterday said they have arrested four youths, including three alleged contract killers, from Badda and Gulshan areas on Sunday.
Of the four, Tamjid Ahmed alias Rubel alias Shooter Rubel, Russell Chowdhury alias Chakki Russell and Minhazul Arifin Russell alias Bhagne Russell directly took part in the killing mission.
The fourth arrestee is Shakhawat Hossian alias Sharif. He provided the trio with his motorcycle on which they arrived on the spot and fled away after the shooting, said the commissioner during a press conference at the DMP media centre.
"Their target was not Tavella but any white man living in Bangladesh," said the DMP chief.
Police, however, did not disclose the name of the so-called “Boro Bhai”.
“We have information about the so-called Boro Bhai. After his arrest, it will be known who are backing him,” Asaduzzaman said.
Detective sources claimed the “big brother” is a mid or lower-mid level leader of the BNP.
The DMP commissioner told the press that the three youths, who directly took part in the killing, are giving different accounts about the amount of the contract money.
The “big brother” paid half the contract money before the murder and was supposed to pay the other half after the mission was accomplished. The killers did not get the rest of the amount, he added.
Police have seized the motorcycle but could not recover the firearms used in the shooting.
Later in the day, Rubel confessed to a magistrate that he shot four bullets at Tavella, court sources said. He also confessed that along with him Russell Chowdhury alias Chakki Russell and Arifin went to the spot on a motorcycle and fled.
Rubel told the magistrate that their motive was to create panic in the country particularly in the diplomatic area. He, however, said Chakki Russell and Arifin knew the objective behind their bid to create panic.
Metropolitan Magistrate Shahriar Mahmud Adnan recorded the statement for around three hours at his office.
The court then ordered sending Rubel to jail.
Another Dhaka court placed Chakki Russell, Arefin and Sharif on an eight-day remand each.
The detainees said nothing during the time of remand hearing. No lawyer stood for them either.
Although police claimed they picked up the four on Sunday, family members of three detainees alleged that plainclothes cops picked them up much earlier. They alleged police were trying to implicate them in the foreigner killing as they were involved in BNP politics.
As part of the plan to kill a foreigner, Russell Chowdhury took position in front of the regional city corporation office on the east side of Gulshan Road 90, said the DMP boss.
The two others took Russell on their motorcycle and started following Tavella when they saw the Italian walking.
They followed Tavella up to the end of Road 90, crossed him and then made a U-turn.
Getting down form the motorcycle, Rubel shot him. When Tavella collapsed on the ground, the trio ran to the motorcycle and sped away.
Regarding Site Intelligence Group's report that the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder, the commissioner said police were yet to find even the slightest militant link with the shooting.
"Our evidence and investigation suggest that it [the reported claim of IS] was not authentic. The IS drama has been staged to hide the real killers," the commissioner said.
In the briefing, the DMP commissioner said they have arrested the "real culprits" through scrutinising CCTV camera footage and collecting adequate evidence.
He added there was no link between Tavella killing and killing of assistant sub-inspector Ibrahim Mollah or blast in Hossaini Dalan.
Replying to a query about the comments of some ruling Awami League leaders that the murder was part of BNP-Jamaat's conspiracy, the commissioner said those would not influence their investigation.
"It is normal that political leaders will speak politically. We have been carrying out the investigation as a professional force," he said.
CLAIMS OF FAMILIES
Selina Aktar, mother of Minhazul Arifin Russell, said her son was picked up on October 12 evening by plainclothes detectives in front of their Madhya Badda house and a local boy informed her about it. Russell had been missing since then, she said.
The family went to the Detective Branch office on Minto Road a couple of times but failed to know his whereabouts. DB men denied nabbing him, she added.
Later on October 16, they filed a general diary with Badda Police Station.
Sharif was picked up by some persons, who introduced them as detectives, from his Madhya Badda house around 3:30am on October 15, alleged his elder brother Sohag. They also took away a motorbike from the house that Sharif bought two years ago.
The family members went to the DB office and local police station on several occasions but to no avail, Shohag added.
“It was a great relief to see him. We thought we will never trace him,” Shohag said as he came to know about his brother's arrest. "It would be proved later whether Sharif was guilty or not."
Nahar Begum, a tenant at the house of another detainee, Russell Chowdhury, said four to five men entered their Shimultoli house at Dakkhin Badda around 10:30am on October 10, saying they would check the water supply line.
The men later identified them as detectives and picked up Russell, she added.
Several locals at Shimultoli said most of the time Russell would hang out with friends at a tea stall in front of his house. His sister Subarna Chowdhury alleged that her brother was being framed by police.
According to detectives, Russell and Arifin are drug addicts and they served jail terms in different cases. Rubel was a notorious and cool-headed murderer while Sharif was a drug trader and arms supplier.