Sunday, January 30, 2005

BANGLADESH: FBI, Interpol, SY to Probe Bomb Attack [ 3 News Clippings]

NEWS HEADLINES IN CLIPPINGS

01. Govt asks Interpol, Scotland Yard, FBI to probe
02. Babar talks to Ambassador Thomas: Govt seeks US help in blast probe
03. B'desh asks FBI to probe deadly attack
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01. Govt asks Interpol, Scotland Yard, FBI to probe
Staff Correspondent

The government yesterday formally requested Interpol, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the British Scotland Yard to join the local investigation into the January 27 grenade attack in Habiganj that killed former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria and four others.

The government has requested these agencies to also become a part of the investigating team, unlike previous assistance in the August 21 and May 21 grenade attacks investigations where their role was limited to providing forensic expertise, Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan told reporters yesterday.

"No efforts will be spared to nab the criminals involved and bring them to justice," he said.

"We make this commitment out of our obligation to the electorates, and the actions of the government of a sovereign state are based on this principle, not on statements made by foreign diplomats," said Morshed, referring to a statement issued by foreign envoys and foreign ministry spokespersons of numerous countries.

Meanwhile, with the previous assistance from Interpol and the FBI into the August 21, 2004 grenade attacks on an Awami League rally, no conclusive report has been made.

Scotland's Yard's forensic expertise has also failed to bring any substantive progress in the investigation of the May 21, 2004 grenade attack on the British Envoy Anwar Choudhury.

INVESTIGATION ASSISTANCE

After formal requests to the three agencies were made yesterday, Interpol responded immediately and is likely to arrive within two or three days, Morshed Khan said.

"We'd like to get their expertise, but we also want them to work together in our investigation team," he added.

The foreign minister also made a formal request for FBI assistance to the US Ambassador Harry K Thomas during a meeting at the foreign ministry last night. However, since the US State Department in Washington is closed on Saturday and Sunday, a response is likely to come on Monday, the foreign minister said.

Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury told reporters that the Scotland Yard, which had already been asked to follow-up on the investigation into the attack on British envoy Anwar Choudhury on May 21 last year, has now been requested to assist with the investigation into the January 27 grenade attack.

ON US AND EU STATEMENT:

"We are not sitting idle; we have been and still are investigating the matters," Morshed said, commenting on the US and European Union's (EU) statements that failure to rein in perpetrators of previous bomb and grenade attacks has created a climate of impunity which encourages the continuation of such incidents.

"The investigation has to be quick and in-depth as a deterrence to future recurrences of such a horrific incidents," he added.

"Such incidents take place in countries all over the world, not just in Bangladesh. We cannot bring an end to these incidents overnight," he said, adding, "The government is fully aware of its responsibilities to the citizens and the honourable prime minister has sought cooperation of all quarters to nab the criminals."

Morshed condoled the death of Kibria and others and said, "One or two perpetrators of such a heinous act cannot be allowed to destroy the fabric of our democratic and tolerant country."

UNB says: Lutfozzaman Babar, state minister for home affaires, also talked to the US ambassador yesterday and sought cooperation of the US investigators.

"We sought US expert investigators to dig out the Habiganj incident as the government is determined to unearth the mystery," Babar told a briefing.

"We want full cooperation of the US investigators, we want that they remain involved in the whole investigation process with our local investigators," he said.

Babar told journalists that two Interpol men are coming on January 31 from the US and Japan. They will prepare an assessment report and later, on the basis of the report, another team will come.

The state minister described limitations and progress of the investigations of the bomb attacks on the British High commissioner and on the Awami League meeting on August 21.

He said that Interpol and Scotland Yard were invited soon after the bomb attack at Sylhet Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) Mazar and on the Awami League meeting.

During the investigation of the Sylhet bomb attack, investigators arrested one Badrul Hasan Shamim, a UK citizen. Later the government, at the request of the British envoy, allowed him to go to Singapore for treatment but he left for London instead of returning to Dhaka,

Babar said.

"Our investigators even went to Singapore for interrogation but the suspect did not cooperate with them. We requested the British high commissioner not to allow him in the UK for the sake of investigation, but it was ignored," UNB quoted Babar as saying.

"We have sent recently another letter to the authorities concerned in the UK saying Shamim is one of the prime suspects and he should be interrogated further," he said. "We hope that they (UK) will consider our request positively," Babar told the reporters.


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02. Babar talks to Ambassador Thomas: Govt seeks US help in blast probe
By BSS, Dhaka

The government on Saturday sought United States assistance in investigating the Thursday's blast in Habiganj killing Awami League leader and former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria, State Minister for Home Lutfuzzaman Babar said here on Saturday.

"I have talked to the US ambassador in Dhaka seeking his country's assistance in unearthing the blast incident" remaining involved in the entire investigation process, Babar told newsmen at a press briefing at his office.

He added that Ambassador Harry K.Thomas was positive and said that he would "let us know by Monday his government's response to our request".

Officials said Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan too requested the United States through the US envoy to extend its help to find the culprits.

Babar reiterated the government pledges to bring the culprits to justice saying, "the country is now faced with an adverse situation .. . we badly need to find the culprits".

The State Minister also sought the cooperation of the people particularly those in the blast scene to provide clues in finding the attackers. "Somebody must have seen something during the incident. We request them to provide us the clues."

Babar also expressed his personal grief at the heinous murder of Shah AMS Kibria describing him as a "dignified, learned and honest politician with international repute".

"I am anguished and saddened . . . It is not the Awami League alone, the entire nation has lost a national leader," Babar said conveying his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved family members and praying for the departed soul.

The State Minister said a joint investigation was launched on Friday with all security and intelligence agencies headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in Sylhet Range as Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia "asked us to lay top priority to unearth the incident".

On the current state of the investigations into the August 21, 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally and attempt on the British High Commissioner in Sylhet, Babar said that the government had requested the Interpol and the British government to return to the probe processes with their expertise.

"We requested them that we want their involvement in the entire investigation process offering them the local hospitality and logistics," Babar said adding, the Interpol has already responded promising to send a two-member expert team on january 31 while the government is awaiting reply from the British authority.

He alleged that the desired progress in the investigation into the August 21 attack could not be achieved due to the "non- cooperation" of the main opposition party.

"They have filed a case but we were not allowed to quiz the witnesses like the driver and personal staff of the Opposition Leader. Even we could not take the jeep used by her on that day for examination," the State Minister said.

On the Sylhet attack, the state minister said soon after the incident police had arrested a British Bangladeshi, Badrul Hassan Shamim, who too was injured in the incident, and found some clues from him.

But, he said, at one stage of investigation at the insistence of the British government Shamim was allowed to leave the country for treatment in Singapore "when the British High Commission in Dhaka promised us to return him to us after treatment".

Babar said an investigation team even went to Singapore to quiz Shamim but he did not cooperate and instead went to London from there.

"Shamim is a prime suspect of ours and we have sent a letter to British authorities requesting to return him and proposing to quiz him by a joint interrogation team," the State Minister said.

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03. B'desh asks FBI to probe deadly attack

DHAKA: Bangladesh asked the US' FBI and Britain's Scotland Yard to help investigate a deadly grenade attack on an opposition political rally as dozens were arrested Saturday in a nationwide strike protesting the bombing.

"We're seeking assistance from Scotland Yard police, Interpol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI of the US to help us carry out necessary investigations," Bangladesh's Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan said.

"I've already talked to the US ambassador in Dhaka to provide FBI assistance in nabbing the criminals responsible for the heinous grenade attack," he added, according to the official news agency BSS.

The call for help came after appeals by the main Awami League opposition party and Amnesty International for a thorough probe, as demonstrators clashed with police and dozens of people were arrested at the start of a three-day strike to protest Thursday's attack that killed five people.

Assailants hurled a grenade at the close of the rally called by the Awami League, killing former finance minister Shah A.M.S. Kibria and four others.

The attack came just over a week ahead of a regional summit of South Asian leaders in Dhaka. Khan said the attack would have no impact on the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meeting set for February 6-7. The Awami League said Friday the Muslim-majority nation was being "held hostage to violent extremism and radicalism" aimed at wrecking its secular foundations and demanded a full investigation into the blast.

The government, an Islamist-allied coalition led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, dismissed the charges as "emotional outpourings."

On Saturday, the first day of the general strike, demonstrators fought with police in different parts of the country, smashing vehicle windows and blocking train services.

Police baton-charged protests in Dhaka and arrested over 40 people after clashes between demonstrators and security forces, city police chief Mizanur Rahman told AFP.

The clashes with police followed violence Friday in Dhaka in which over 50 people were hurt when police fired teargas and wielding batons dispersed demonstrators carrying Kibria's coffin to a martyr's monument, witnesses said.

The dawn-to-dusk strike which ends Monday emptied towns and cities of traffic and shut businesses, shops and schools, police and witnesses said. Saturday is a working day in Bangladesh.

Awami League spokesman Saber Hossain Chowdhury said two top party leaders needed hospital treatment after being caught up in protests Saturday that were broken up by police.

Some 8,000 riot police were guarding key locations in Dhaka, police said. Police also said they arrested five people in the southeastern port city of Chittagong when they tried to demonstrate outside Awami League offices.

Strikes are common in Bangladesh where the opposition enforced 22 shutdowns last year, despite pleas from aid donors and business to find other ways to protest, saying such actions drained the nation's impoverished economy.

The strike halted cargo deliveries at Chittagong's port and disrupted rail services, officials said. Other parts of the country also ground to a standstill.

"Shops are closed and inter-city buses and truck services are suspended," police chief Abdul Aziz Sarker said in southwestern Khulna.

Thursday's attack was the latest in a series, including one last August when over 20 people were killed in a grenade assault on an Awami League rally that the party branded an assassination attempt against its leader, former prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

In its statement, London-based Amnesty International accused the government of failing to investigate earlier attacks with "rigour and determination."

The group said "unless such inquiries are conducted thoroughly and impartially, they will lack credibility and the culprits will be sheltered from justice."

The Awami League has accused the government of failing to curb rampant corruption and crime. The government says it is working hard to tackle a grim law-and-order situation inherited from the previous Awami League administration.

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