It was LeT's grenade
Harkatul Jihad al Islami (Huji) used a grenade to kill Awami League leader SAMS Kibria in 2004 from a cache it was supposed to transport to India-administered Kashmir for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The LeT high-ups in Pakistan had sent the cache to Bangladesh to despatch it to their men in Kashmir through Satkhira border. But the Huji did not dare to follow the instruction thanks to the Indian authorities' interception of the previous consignment.
The cache of 32 grenades, which the Huji received in Chittagong, rested in Bangladesh for a while before those were used in different major attacks. The grenades were hurled at AL chief and then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina on August 21, 2004, the then British high commissioner Anwar Choudhury, AL leaders Suranjit Sengupta, Syeda Jebunnesa Haq, and Badruddin Ahmed Kamran, also mayor of Sylhet.
The revelation came six years into the sensational killing of former finance minister Kibria at an AL rally in Baidder Bazar in Habiganj.
Talking to The Daily Star, sources involved in the investigation said this major finding could lead to arrest of those masterminding the murder.
Rafiqul Islam of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who is tasked with carrying out an additional investigation into the killing, said, "We now know who supplied the grenades and who received those in Bangladesh."
But he would not identify by name the Huji men who were directly involved in the incident.
Sources say Mozaffar Shah, leader of the Kashmir-based LeT, sent the grenades to Chittagong through a ship from Pakistan.
"Majid Butt and Moulana Tajuddin were responsible for receiving those in Chittagong and transport the lot to the capital," says a source.
Abdul Majid Butt, who also used the name Yusuf Butt, is an Indian national and senior leader of Kashmir-based militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. He had been staying in Bangladesh for long using different names to hide his identity. He married a woman from Pabna and was staying in different parts of the country including Dhaka.
Law enforcers arrested Majid with firearms in the capital's Uttara on January 7, 2009. His identity as a militant operative in disguise was revealed in an investigation that ended by the yearend.
Moulana Tajuddin is the brother of Abdus Salam Pintu, BNP leader and former deputy minister of BNP-Jamaat-led four-party alliance government. A leader of the Huji, Tajuddin went into hiding after the August 21 grenade attack.
LeT, Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad are linked with an alliance operating in India-administered Kashmir. Huji is the local facilitator for smuggling firearms, ammunition and explosives there through Bangladesh.
"The Indian Border Security Force intercepted a consignment of firearms and explosives during such an attempt by the end of 2003 or beginning of 2004. This shook the Huji men in Bangladesh," adds the source.
As a result, the Huji men stopped transporting the 32 grenades and kept those in Bangladesh, the source continues.
"Moulana Tajuddin brought those to Dhaka with the help of Butt."
Of the grenades, nine were sent to Huji men in Sylhet region for use in different attacks on AL leaders and the then British high commissioner.
Sharif Shahedul Alam Bipul, a leader of Huji's Sylhet region who received the grenades and distributed those as per their "needs", kept one to kill SAMS Kibria, say sources.
"Instructed by Bipul, one Nayeem Ahmed Arif alias Limu gave the grenade to Badrul Alam Mizan to execute Kibria killing plan on January 27, 2005," another source says.
Mizan had Mizanur Rahman Mithu, Mohammad Ali and Mohammad Badrul with him during the operation, the source adds.
Splitting in two groups, Mizan and Mohammad Ali were riding on a motorbike, while the rest took an auto-rickshaw to reach Baidder Bazar where Kibria, also the lawmaker elected from the constituency, was attending a programme as the chief guest.
"Though assigned to throw the grenade, Mohammad Ali got nervous and asked Mizan to do it. Well-trained in handling explosives, Mizan carried out the mission successfully," says the source.
Talking on the motive of the killing, sources quoted detained Huji leader Mufti Abdul Hannan as saying that the Huji Majlish-e-Shura was of the view that the AL is an anti-Islam and pro-Indian political party that needed to be eliminated.
"This viewpoint led Bipul to design several plans to attack AL leaders in Sylhet region," the source adds.
Well-placed sources say many leaders of the then government were fully aware of the Huji activities. Instead of taking any steps against it, they kept mum encouraging Huji men to continue with their plans.
"Though several such instances have been found in our probe, we don't have enough hard evidence to officially bring charges against them," comments an investigator.
Only Lutfozzaman Babar, former state minister for home, has been shown arrested in connection with the Kibria murder. His name might also come in the charge sheet, adds the source.
"What we have learned about Babar so far regarding his involvement is that he helped Moulana Tajuddin escape to Pakistan," said investigation officer (IO) Rafiqul Islam.
After his detention by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence in 2005, Tajuddin revealed information about all the attacks including smuggling of firearms and explosives. Accordingly, the DGFI men conveyed the information to the government high-ups including Babar.
Babar later arranged a safe passage for Tajuddin to Pakistan.
"Being the state minister for home, Babar helped Tajuddin escape and diverted the course of investigation. We're now examining whether his role allows us to accuse him officially in the charge sheet," the IO added.
The sources say investigators have so far identified 15 Huji men and Babar against who they can press charges.
The CID and the government officials concerned are now scrutinising the draft of the additional probe report.
Nine out of the 16 accused are behind the bars now. They are Babar, Mufti Hannan, Abu Zandal, Mohibullah Ovi, Bipul, Limu, Badrul Alam Mizan, Mizanur Rahman Mithu and Majid Butt. The fugitives are Tajuddin, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Badrul, Mufti Abdul Hye, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman and Yusuf bin Sharif.
Ahsanullah Kajal, who was arrested in India, died there.
During the BNP-Jamaat rule, the investigators pressed charges against 10 local leaders of BNP and its front organisations.
Kibria's family and complainant of the case advocate Abdul Mazid Khan, MP, did not accept that charge sheet. The caretaker government later ordered an additional probe into the killing.
Asma Kibria, widow of Kibria, said she has no idea what is coming up in the investigation.
"What I know is from newspaper reports. And I am not satisfied because I thought the Awami League government could expedite the process and take shorter period of time," she told The Daily Star.
"We are disappointed. If the party my husband worked for, which is now in power, fails to punish the killers, we don't see any slightest possibility of justice in future.
"Not because that my husband was a leader of Awami League, I have the right to get justice as a common citizen of the country," she added.
Asma Kibria thinks some of the then government assisted the Huji men in killing SAMS Kibria. "Those masterminds have to be identified and punished duly," she added.