NewAge, June 24, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh
Extrajudicial killings by different law enforcing agencies, especially members of the Rapid Action Battalion, marked a sharp rise in the last six months, with deaths in ‘crossfire’ totalling 169 on 17 months since the state of emergency was promulgated.
From January 12 to December 31 last year, a total of 131 people were killed in ‘crossfire’ across the country, while 38 were killed between January 1 and June 20, 2008. A total of 124 people were killed in ‘crossfire’ from January 12 to June 20, 2007, while 25 people were killed from January 1, 2007 to June 20, 2007.
The regular police force and members of the Rapid Action Battalion together killed 169 people on the plea of the anti-crime drive in a span of only 15 months. Among the victims, 93 people were killed in ‘shootouts’ with RAB, 67 were killed in police ‘crossfire’ and seven people were jointly killed by RAB and police in ‘crossfire’.
Story is almost the same for most of the incidents, with law enforcing agencies concerned repeating the cliché — tipped off, they raided certain areas at night and answered the gunshots from gangsters, leaving ‘notorious criminals’ — in some cases, with accomplices— dead in crossfire.
In the last of a series of such events, three alleged criminals — Sohel aka ‘Bhombal’ Sohel, Monir Hossain alias Baka Babu, and Sukkur Ali — were killed in a gunfight with members of the Rapid Action Battalion at Meradia in Khilgaon in the small hours of June 16.
RAB claimed that one of their patrol teams chased the three because of their suspicious movements when they were passing through Balurmath near Meradia Bazar by a private car at around 1:45am. Sensing danger, the suspected criminals reportedly fired several bullets on the law enforcers, forcing them to retaliate. At one stage they were shot and died on the spot. The RAB reportedly recovered three firearms and 10 cocktails from the scene and seized the private car.
Babu’s father Moklesur Rahman alleged that RAB personnel picked up his son and his two friends — Kalu and Belal — from a restaurant at East Rampura on May 14. ‘Though my son is dead, Kalu and Belal still remain missing,’ said Moklesur Rahman. Family members of two other deceased — Sukkur and Sohel —said RAB members arrested the two at night on June 14. They said Sohel and his friend Babu had been indulging in criminal activities for the last several years and they did not maintain any relationship with Sohel. They, however, claimed that Sukkur was not a criminal, but the driver of Sohel’s car.
Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra, a human rights watchdog, told New Age, ‘We are concerned over the increasing number of extrajudicial killings. It had decreased for the time being but has now increased remarkably.’ ‘We are requesting the government to put an end to this sort of killing,’ she added.
Director-general of the Rapid Action Battalion, Hasan Masud Khandakar, told New Age, ‘The number of crossfire deaths increased when the law and order deteriorated, but I am sure that the figure is not higher than it was earlier.’