Placing Holy Quran at Mandap: Suspect Iqbal arrested

Identified as the person responsible thru’ CCTV footage, police say

Police last night arrested the man who they said put the Holy Quran inside Nanua Dighir Par puja mandap in Cumilla city in the early hours of October 13.

The incident in Cumilla led to communal attacks on Durga Puja mandaps as well as Hindu homes and shops in different places of the country.

A team of Cox's Bazar police arrested the suspect, 35-year-old Iqbal Hossain, a resident of Sujanagar area under Cumilla City Corporation, around 11:00pm yesterday, Zakir Hossen Khan, additional DIG (Crime and Operations) of Chattogram Range, told The Daily Star.

The arrestee was handed to Cumilla police for interrogation, he said, without giving any further details.

Contacted, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan confirmed Iqbal's arrest in Cox's Bazar.

Earlier, police in Cumilla, analysing CCTV footage, said Iqbal was the man who placed the Holy Quran inside the mandap that night.

From the footage, it was also found that he incited people to commit violence in the area later that morning by delivering hate speech, Superintendent of Police in Cumilla Faruk Ahmed told The Daily Star.

He said they collected 12 pieces of CCTV footage as evidence as of yesterday.

One such footage shows Iqbal in a T-shirt entering the Daroga Bari shrine -- around 500 yards off the mandap -- at 2:10am. There is a mosque right next to the shrine.

Iqbal first took a copy of the Holy Quran kept on the donation box of the mosque, then he sat down on the shrine premises and left keeping the holy book on the floor.

Minutes later, he returned, picked the Holy Quran and left again.

At least 10 pieces of CCTV footage showed him roaming on the main road of the area pressing the Quran against his chest between 2:10am and 3:10am. One collected from the eastern side of the mandap showed him loitering in the same area, holding a mace, at 3:12am. He then walked into a narrow alley.

Later that morning, on October 13, Iqbal was seen talking to a group of people in an agitated manner near the mandap, said SP Faruk, adding that this was recorded on a mobile phone camera and the footage was in police possession.

The police official also said Ekram Hossen, who informed police about the alleged defamation of the Holy Quran by dialing 999 around 7:00am on October 13, was also seen on CCTV footage roaming in the area that night.

Ekram is now behind bars.

Anwarul Azim, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Model Police Station, yesterday said police kept the Holy Quran in their possession as an important piece of evidence.

At a briefing earlier in the day, the home minister said Iqbal might have been prompted by "someone" to do what he did. He also said Iqbal had no cell phone.

He also said it was possible that Iqbal was hiding with the help of those who might have sent him for the "job".

He said in video footage Iqbal was seen entering the mosque three times around 3:00am that night and talking to two people there.

Replying to a query, Asaduzzaman said the OC concerned went to the spot immediately after someone dialed the national helpline 999 and informed police about the matter.

"No government car was available at that time… the OC rushed to the spot on a scooter. Showing proper respect to the Quran and holding it against his chest, he came out of the mandap."

"I do not know whether he noticed who was filming him at that time. If he had noticed that, he must have taken steps to stop the filming," the minister said.

"We have also detained the person who recorded the video and interrogated him."

In response to another query, the home boss claimed that there was no panic anywhere. Terming the attacks on the mandaps isolated incidents, he said those were carried out with a purpose and all happened quickly.

"Now everything is completely calm. Everyone has gone to work," the minister added.

After the Cumilla incident, Hindu mandaps and homes came under communal attack in at least 14 districts.

Even yesterday, three haystacks belonging to Hindu families were set ablaze at Bhimsi village of Sreemangal upazila in Moulvibazar.


Son of Noor Ahmed Alam and Bibi Amena of Pathuria para in Cumilla's Sujannagar, Iqbal lives in Laskar Para area of Muradpur in the city along with his grandmother.

Iqbal's mother Amena and grandmother Rahima identified him in the CCTV footage.

Eldest among five siblings, Iqbal has been on drugs for long. He is also mentally unstable, Amena told The Daily Star.

Sometimes he would work as a painter and sometimes as a helper of bus drivers, she said. "Due to his mental state, he could hardly complete his daily jobs. He would come back home right in the middle of the job," she said.

Iqbal has married twice. He divorced his first wife and they have a five-year-old son, she said, adding that he also has a child from his second wife. Iqbal is now separated from his second wife as well.

His mother said he did not provide any financial support to his wife and kids.

"Iqbal visited me on Monday evening [October 11] and quarrelled with me. I asked him not to create any chaos here as it's our rented home. Then he left," said Amena.

"My son must get capital punishment as he created unrest across the country. I don't need such a son," said the mother in anger.

Meanwhile, a Cumilla court granted two-day remand for Mohammad Fayez, 41, charged under the Digital Security Act for going live on social media from the Cumilla mandap on October 13 morning.

"CID has been interrogating Fayez from Thursday to know the motive behind him going live on Facebook," said Khan Mohammad Rezwan, police super of CID, Cumilla district.

Meanwhile, CID arrested an Islamic speaker in Dhaka's South Keraniganj area on charge of spreading hate speech following the Cumilla incident on October 13.

A team of Cyber Monitoring Cell arrested Abdur Rahim Biplobi, 39, in a raid in Chunkuthia area around 7:30am yesterday, said a CID press release.


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