Of tragedy, desperation, and a failed rescue attempt
Three families in Cox's Bazar have been shattered by the brutal murder of three young men from their households. The anguished cries of Moyna Khatun Pakhi, the wife of one of the victims, Imran, echo through the walls of their tiny rented house -- a constant reminder of the pain they endure.
Imran, a devoted husband and father, lived a simple life with his two children, wife, parents, and younger brother. Their humble abode, a two-room tin shed, was a testament to their meagre existence. Little did they know that their world would be turned upside down on that fateful day, April 28th, when Imran, along with his friends Zamir Uddin Rubel and Mohammad Yousuf, was forcefully taken from them.
Driven to the edge of despair, Imran's family had no choice but to sell their only refrigerator and precious kitchen utensils to scrape together the demanded ransom of Tk 1 lakh.
"We knocked on every door in their neighbourhood, pleading for help and collecting whatever we could to secure the release of Imran," said Moyna.
Through the mobile payment service Bkash, they managed to send the money in two instalments to the abductors. Their hopes were briefly lifted, clinging to the belief that the safe return of Imran was within their grasp. But destiny can be cruel, and despite their efforts, their beloved Imran only returned to them as a dead body.
As Moyna recounts the horrors they endured, tears stream down her face, mingling with her words.
"The trauma inflicted upon Imran's younger brother has left him in a state of mental despair," she said.
Their once-unified family now faces an uncertain future, burdened not only by the loss of a husband and brother but also by the debts they incurred to secure his release.
Imran, Zamir Uddin Rubel, and Mohammad Yousuf were lured away under pretences, enticed by promises of a potential bride for Rubel. Tragically, their hopeful journey ended in abduction, leaving their families in a state of anguish and despair.
Despite their desperate pleas, the initial response from the authorities only added to their misery. Caught in a bureaucratic maze, they were shuffled between police stations, each one deflecting responsibility, leaving them in a state of despair. Days turned into weeks, and hope grew dim as their cries for help fell on deaf ears.
"As soon as we received calls from the kidnappers, who provided us videos of torturing my husband and his friends and demanded Tk 30 lakh as ransom on April 29 noon, we roamed back and forth from Cox's Bazar Sadar Police Station to Teknaf Police Station to file a case of abduction."
"However, no police station reported our case. Teknaf police told us to register the case with Sadar Police Station while Sadar Police advised us to file the case with Teknaf Police," she said.
Finally, after a relentless pursuit and with the intervention of a compassionate political leader, their case was officially recorded by Teknaf Police Station. However, by then, precious time had slipped away, and their dear Imran remained missing.
In a last-ditch effort to secure Imran's release, Moyna's sister-in-law, Minu Begum, bravely ventured to the location provided by the abductors on May 5, accompanied by a Rapid Action Battalion team, carrying the promised ransom. But fate had other plans. The abductors, sensing danger, vanished into the shadows, leaving behind a chilling threat that still haunts their shattered hearts.
"You'll face dire consequences for it," these were the abductors' last words to Moyna.
Their agonising wait came to an excruciating end on Wednesday, when both families were summoned by Teknaf Police Station, 25 days after the abduction, to identify the bodies of their loved ones. The bodies, recovered from the depths of the treacherous Damdamia forest, were in an advanced state of decomposition—a grim testament to the horrors they endured.
In their pursuit of justice, the authorities have managed to apprehend two individuals, including Shafi Alam, a Rohingya who had become entangled in a web of criminality as a member of an abduction syndicate, claimed Lt Colonel Saiful Islam Suman, the commanding officer of Rab 15 in Cox's Bazar.
"Acting on a crucial tip-off, Rab forces apprehended Syed Hossain, also known as Sonali Dakat, a notorious Rohingya robber. Through his confession, a breakthrough was made, leading the authorities to conduct a daring raid deep within the terrain of Damdamia's dense forest," he said.