'Murder' it was
"The commissioner has not done anything ... Why are you killing him?"
Repeating these words, a female voice kept screaming over a mobile phone moments after hearing a gunshot during a phone call, according to an unverified audio clip.
At a press conference in Cox's Bazar yesterday, Ayesha Begum, wife of slain Teknaf municipality councillor Akramul Haque, claimed that the female voice in the audio clip was hers and that she was trying to talk to her husband on his mobile phone on May 26 night.
She gave reporters four audio clips of chilling conversations, raising allegations of cold-blooded murder of her husband.
However, the Rapid Action Battalion in a press release earlier said Akram was killed in a "gunfight" between the elite force and drug dealers in Teknaf around 1:00am on May 27.
The Daily Star could not independently verify the authenticity of the audio clips.
In the fourth audio clip with duration of around 13 minutes, the first gunshot was heard just seconds before the second one.
There was a very brief conversation before it.
"Aren't you involved?" said an unidentified voice.
"No", replied another voice.
After a few seconds, the sound of pulling back the hammer of a gun was heard. Then a gunshot rang out. What followed next was groaning of a man.
As the groaning continued for a few seconds, Akram's wife and two daughters on the other side of the phone screamed and begged for his life, saying he was innocent, according to the audio clip.
Terming it a planned killing, Ayesha demanded judicial probe into the incident, and urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to ensure justice for "the killing of one of her dedicated supporters".
Rab refuted the allegations brought by Ayesha, and said her statement was "completely untrue".
At the press conference, Ayesha broke down in tears while claiming her husband's innocence. Their two daughters Tahiyat and Nahiyan, and Akram's brother Nazrul Islam sat near her.
"Allah, give us our father back. I want to call my Abbu once. He was a nice man and never committed any misdeed or crime. He was innocent. He has been killed," said Akram's elder daughter Tahiyat.
As she was saying this, her younger sister Nahiyan, a sixth grader, fainted.
Ayesha told reporters that Akram left home around 9:00pm on May 26 following repeated calls from an official of a special intelligence agency.
"As he did not return home even after 11:00pm, our daughter called Akram at 11:13pm on his cell phone. He said ma 'I am going to Hnila with the major with whom I came here'," Ayesha said.
"My daughter again called him at 11:14pm when Akram in a choked voice said 'I am going to the TNO office. Tell your mother'," she continued.
"When our daughter again asked when he would return, he replied 'Inshallah I will return after work'."
Ayesha made the last phone call to Akram at 11:32pm. It was received but Akram was not saying anything.
"An unknown voice was heard talking to him [Akram]. The person said 'aren't you involved?'
"My husband replied 'I am not involved'. Then I heard gunshots and groaning of my husband. I almost lost my mind. I and my daughters screamed and begged them not to kill him...," she said.
"But our requests could not melt their hearts ... those fell on deaf ears. They killed my husband firing one shot after another," she said.
"Even after the killing of my husband, we could hear the conversations among them. They said 'now shoot at the vehicle'. This was done to show that the incident was a gunfight," Ayesha alleged, adding that she recorded the four phone calls.
'I'LL COME BACK'
In one of the clips, there was a conversation between Akram and his daughter in which he told her daughter to go to sleep and that he would return home soon.
"Hello Abbu," said Akram's daughter said as he picked up the phone.
"Where are you?" she asked.
Akram said he was going to the TNO office and would return home soon.
"How long will it take?" her daughter asked.
"It won't take long. I will come back inshallah. Okay now. Go to sleep," replied the councillor.
In another clip, her daughter asked Akram where he was.
"I am going to Hnila. Hnila", he said.
"Hnila? Why?" she asked.
"For emergency work," he replied.
"Emergency work... Why?" asked the impatient daughter.
With a heavy voice, he replied, "I'm going ammu, okay ... I'm driving."
The audio clip ended there.
At the beginning of the around 13-minute clip, a phone kept ringing and Akram's wife was heard saying, "Allah ... please pick up the phone."
Then someone received the call.
Ayesha then said, "I want to talk to the commissioner [councillor Akram]. Hello, who is this? Who received the call? I'm his wife."
Then several gunshots were heard with intervals.
At one stage, an unidentified voice was heard telling, "Give me shells... three... four. How many have you brought?"
Then another voice said, "Ten."
Sound of sirens was heard at the end of the clip.
'KILLED IN A PLANNED MANNER'
At the press conference at the Cox's Bazar Press Club, Ayesha said it would be clear who killed her husband and who were behind the murder once the mobile call list was recovered.
"You heard the mobile voice records. So judge it for yourself whether he was killed in a gunfight as claimed by the Rab or if it is a planned killing," she said.
She alleged that her husband Akram, 46, a three-time councillor, an Awami League member and former Teknaf Jubo League president, was killed in a planned manner.
After Akram's death, Rab-7 in a Facebook post as well as in a press release claimed that Akram was killed in a "gunfight" at Noakhalipara on Teknaf Marine Drive Road.
The Rab members claimed to have seized 10,000 yaba, a pistol, a shotgun, six bullets, some spent bullet shells and a motorcycle.
"But everything was totally staged… a planned murder," Ayesha said, adding she would produce evidence to support the claim.
On May 26, a person claiming to be an officer of a special intelligence agency posted in Teknaf called her husband over the phone, saying they wanted to buy a piece of land. The man had been contacting Akram for this purpose for three weeks, she claimed.
At one point, the man even introduced Akram to a Rab official. He regularly contacted Akram and talked about buying the land along the Marine Drive road and Akram took them to some land owners several times as a mediator, she added.
"On May 26, the officer called him repeatedly saying a senior official from Dhaka came and called him in Parjatan Hotel Netong," she told the press conference that began around 11:30am.
The Rab in its statement mentioned Akram's father as Mojaher Mia alias Abdus Sattar of Najirpara Teknaf. But, in fact, his father is late Abdus Sattar of Kaukkhali Para in Teknaf municipality, she said.
"It is mysterious … to mention the name and address of a man whom they targeted for a month and then killed him," Ayesha said.
After the shooting, she along with her daughter and a close relative rushed to the Teknaf Police Station and described the incident to the officer-in-charge.
The OC wanted to know the name and address and said one man named Akramul Haque had been killed in a shootout on Marine Drive road, Ayesha said.
Akram's body was handed over to the family the next day and the namaj-e-janaza held at Teknaf Pilot High School Ground was attended by thousands of people.
"Have you ever heard of a janaja of a drug trader where thousands of people attended?" Ayesha asked.
"Only a few days ago, I had a family where there was insolvency, but no want of happiness. Now I only have grief," she said.
She claimed her husband was never in drug business; he was rather vocal against it.
If he was involved in drug trade, he would not be elected councillor thrice, she said. "Why couldn't he build a house although he was a Jubo League president for 12 years in a place like Teknaf? Why are we living in a room of his ancestral home?"
She alleged that Akram's name was put on the list of drug dealers as he came under the wrath of an official of an intelligence agency long ago.
"We support the drive against drugs, but we don't want to see anyone killed the way my husband was," she said.
Mufti Mahmud Khan, director of Rab legal and media wing, dismissed the allegation, saying it was "completely untrue".
"What happened during the raid was reported in the media. There is enough evidence in the media and other reports that he was involved with drugs. His name was on different lists of drug traders," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
The Rab officer said Akram opened fire and Rab members recovered firearms and a huge amount of drugs from the spot.