Huji founder makes startling confession

Details his role to magistrate; reveals involvement of top politicians, officials in Aug 21 grenade attack

Founder of banned Islamist outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (Huji) Sheikh Abdus Salam yesterday confessed to his involvement in the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally.
In a statement given to a Dhaka court, Salam also disclosed the names of a number of top administrative officials and politicians as involved in the gruesome attack.
After his statement was recorded by Metropolitan Magistrate Moazzem Hossain, Salam, also chief of Islamic Democratic Party, was sent to jail.
Another metropolitan magistrate's court yesterday sent Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) member Abdul Majid Butt alias Abu Yusuf Butt on a two-day fresh remand.
In his confessional statement, which came after 15 days' remand by the Criminal Investigation Department in phases, Salam narrated the planning and implementation of the grenade attack that left 24 persons killed and 300 injured.
CID's Additional Superintendent of Police Abdul Kahar Akand, who is the investigation officer of the case, told The Daily Star that of the accused Salam gave the first confessional statement.
CID and court sources said Salam was produced at the court around 2:00pm and Magistrate Moazzem Hossain recorded his statement for six hours. Salam was arrested on November 2 for suspected links with the August 21 incident.
According to sources, the Huji founder narrated the roles of a few top political leaders and influential administrative officials in the attempt to kill Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who was the opposition leader in parliament at that time when the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance was in power.
In his statement, Salam admitted that he was present at a meeting held at the Dhanmondi residence of detained former BNP deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu.
Pintu's fugitive brother and LeT leader Maulana Tajuddin, detained former BNP state minister Lutfozzaman Babar, detained Huji chief Mufti Abdul Hannan and other influential persons were also present at the meeting, Salam said.
He said he returned to Bangladesh after the end of Afghan war against erstwhile Soviet Union and formed Huji along with other veterans of the war.
He confessed to having trained many youths, mainly madrasa students, in operating firearms and bombs. Apart from Bangladeshis, most of their recruits came from the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, he said.
They had also mobilised funds, arms and ammunition for insurgents in Kashmir of India.
Earlier, CID investigator Abdul Kahar Akand told the court that Pintu and Babar had assisted Huji in its attempt to kill Hasina at the rally on Bangabandhu Avenue in the capital.
He said Huji had also planned to kill Hasina and some of her party colleagues during the Awami League's 1996-2001 tenure as it considered the AL government an obstacle to its activities like recruiting and training operatives, and procuring firearms for militants in India and Afghanistan.
Akand said Babar and Pintu had directly helped Tajuddin, who supplied the grenades for the August 21 attack, flee the country and take shelter in Pakistan.
The CID pressed charges against Pintu, his brother and 20 others including Huji boss Mufti Hannan during the last caretaker government's rule. It arrested Babar after a court on August 3 ordered further investigation into the grenade attack to find out the patrons of the attackers and suppliers of the grenades.
The investigators are now working to hunt down the other charge-sheeted accused.
Abu Yusuf Butt was placed on remand by Metropolitan Magistrate Rashed Kabir after the CID produced him before the court with a prayer for three days' fresh remand.
He had been remanded for 12 days on different terms in the case.
Earlier, the CID said Yusuf had come to Bangladesh years ago with the help of LeT leader Maulana Tajuddin and adopted the name Abdul Majid to stay in the country and carry out militant activities.


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