Tuesday, February 01, 2005

BANGLADESH:Assessments - Habiganj Bomb Attack Investigations 01FEB [3 NEWS CLIPPINGS]


01. Habiganj Grenade Attack - Cops watch a section of political activists
02. Arresting anybody is not enough: terrorists must be apprehended
03. Will it be yet another missed opportunity?


01. Habiganj Grenade Attack - Cops watch a section of political activists
Julfikar Ali Manik from Habiganj

Preliminary investigations by the law enforcing agencies point the
finger at a section of ruling BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami activists to be
the prime suspects in the January 27 grenade blasts that killed SAMS
Kibria and four others in Habiganj.

A joint investigation team comprising members of different detective
agencies, Rapid Action Battalion and the police on Sunday night picked
up two persons on suspicion of having links to the Habiganj carnage.

Former president of Habiganj unit Chhatra Shibir Nurunnabi Uzzal was
held from his house at Habiganj while Dorga ward Chhatra Dal President
Jamal alias Kala Jamal from Shubidbazar at Sylhet.

Intelligence sources said that the two were not arrested formally,
they were detained and interrogated on suspicion. Both of them fit the
description of suspects given by witnesses.

Jamaat leaders of Habiganj, meanwhile, were putting pressure on the
investigators to release the Shibir leader, added the sources.

A police source said the detainees could get released any time as the
pressure on them (police) to free the two was mounting.

Police said that not only the two, they would pick whoever they
suspect of having connection with the carnage. They would keep
constant watch on the suspects.

Investigators said that Uzzal and Jamal had denied their involvement
in the carnage.

An investigation source said the investigators basing on the
eyewitness accounts are scouring the areas for up to four persons
including the two, who, the witnesses said, sped off the scene on a
motorbike shortly after the blasts. They went in the direction of
Habiganj sadar.

"But we are cautious in considering whether the witnesses had fed us
wrong information or how much of what they said was true," he added.

The investigators had raided across a wide area in greater Sylhet on
the basis of leads provided by the witnesses. At the same time they
are verifying the authenticity of the witnesses' accounts.

They however could not arrest anyone till Sunday night.

A number of intelligence and police officials on condition of
anonymity said that several activists and criminals allegedly
belonging to the BNP and Jamaat might have been involved in the
grenade blasts. The raids and interrogations are being done in line
with this assumption.

"In any investigation many things might appear suspicious and many
people can be suspected and detained for questioning," said an
official. "We have detained the two as suspects and it's a very
primary step. No one can say it for sure that they did it (blasts) or
Shibir or Chhatra Dal was involved in it."

Another source said that the intelligence men are reviewing whether
criminals from outside of the greater Sylhet region were involved in
the carnage. They are also trying to find out who had helped the
grenade throwers in Habiganj -- especially in Bangaon village that
stands adjacent to Baidderbazar.

"Former finance minister and local lawmaker on the AL ticket SAMS
Kibria was the prime target in the grenade attack," said an
intelligence official, "We set about the investigation by looking for
the answer to the question -- who gains most from his death?"

The investigators also looked for internal feud in Awami League or
presence of rival factions. "But we found nothing to corroborate that
intra-party feud led to the grisly crime," added the official.

Presence of any 'ambitious leader or group' in the local AL to
challenge Kibria was not evident as well to the investigators.

Besides, the investigators examined other possibilities and
beneficiaries of Kibria's death. They found that the slain lawmaker
was widely accepted as a 'good person' throughout his constituency.
His image made it difficult for the candidates of other parties to win
the next election from this constituency. If he is killed, a major
hurdle can be easily overcome for his political opponents and it might
also be the motive for the murder, investigators say.

"We are considering every possibility and ruling out nothing. But
right now, our analysis shows that the local BNP leaders are most
benefited from Kibria's death," said an official.

"The possibility of the Jamaat's winning the constituency is lower
than that of BNP. But Jamaat may have long-term benefits. And that is
why, they come second on the list of suspects," he added.

Besides the investigators are looking into whether any third force had
hired criminals affiliated with a section of Jamaat or BNP to throw
the grenades.

While talking to The Daily Star, Habiganj BNP President Aminur Rashid
Emran denied outright any of the four-party alliance member's
connection with the carnage. He also ruled out internal conflict in
Awami League as the reason for the killing.

"I don't think Awami League has done it, " Emran added.

"But if anyone can present acceptable proof that some of our party men
were involved -- even if that points the finger at me -- our party
will take steps," Emran said.

He said, "I believe a foreign interest group did it through their
(Bangladeshi) accomplices. I also think the attack was carried out by
the outsiders."

However, a veteran BNP leader of Habiganj seeking anonymity said,
"Money and muscle dominate the ruling parties' politics in Habiganj.
The victory of BNP in the municipality election through massive
rigging has created resentment within the party itself.

"It's not possible for BNP or Jamaat to be involved in this grenade
attack. But one cannot rule out presence of such a clique within BNP
and Jamaat that might have done it!" he added.



02. Arresting anybody is not enough: terrorists must be apprehended

Everybody knows the extensive power the police have for easy arrests.
So, it cannot be used against police for not arresting anybody yet in
connection with the bomb attack on SAMS Kibria, the former finance
minister of Awami League and 4 others at Habiganj. He went there to
hold a public meeting and the incident took place at the end of the
public meeting.

It would have been one thing if police and intelligence agencies
people could have arrested the killers on the spot or immediately
thereafter. But, disappointedly, that kind of preparations were
totally absent. It is claimed that the local police had no knowledge
that Mr. Kibria was going to hold a public meeting. Our intelligence
agencies have to explain their gross failure to gather vital
information about terrorist activities in Bangladesh. There is nothing
to suggest that there was presence of intelligence persons at Mr
Kibria's meeting.

The nation is being blamed for inability even to produce any clue as
to who might be involved in the killings of important persons at
public gatherings.

The bomb was exploded at the end of the meeting when Mr. Kibria and
others were leaving the place. This fact only makes it clear that the
terrorists with the bombs were waiting for the best opportunity to use
them and escape in the confusion.

It is to be accepted that they are not ordinary criminals. These
terrorists must be well organised and fully protected. Such terrorists
are not without their masterminds. It is also possible that they are
too close to arouse suspicion for arrest.

The government was too confident at the killings in cross-fire by RAB
(Special Police) believing that they have found the best way for
stopping terrorism.

Once the killers have been able to find safe shelter either within the
country or outside, it will be natural to take time and care to follow
clues to find them. Outside, experts will not be able to do it. They
do not have the intimate knowledge about hideouts that might be
available to them, unless they stay here for months to be familiar.
Then also, they will need extensive help from our police and
intelligence officials.

The government has sought help from the FBI of the United States. The
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Cristina Roca
insisted, first the "government to conduct a thorough investigation in
order to identify, arrest and prosecute those responsible for the

It is also important to note that while agreeing to offer such
assistance and asking for thorough investigation leading to arrest of
the terrorists responsible, the Assistant Secretary has said as

"However, for such assistance to be useful we believe it would be
important for the government to establish clear terms of reference and
to make other provisions to ensure that FBI consultants are given a
full access to all relevant evidence and witnesses.

From the above explanations what is clear is that the FBI consultants
can only give the expert opinion about intricacies of terrorist
incident. Our officials will have to do the basic police work. FBI
experts will be helpful to reexamine the evidence gathered and the
persons arrested to give their impartial assessment. If there is
evidence of international links then FBI will be most helpful for the
arrest of person allegedly involved. It is not for FBI to do what our
police and intelligence people can do best.

FBI's involvement at some stage will be essential for establishing the
impartiality of the investigation. Our political leaders have no trust
in each other. Even a joint committee of inquiry consisting of BNP and
Awami League will not be enough to make the investigation fair and
acceptable. But Awami League's close involvement is a must to gather
vital information as well as for helping the FBI.

The fact is no thorough investigation is possible without cooperation
of Awami League and BNP. Awami League and BNP must come out to tell
the investigators about their own suspicions without making public
statements. The political leaders themselves have introduced terrorism
in politics and made politics dangerous for decent people. Now the
trend of that terrorism has reached the stage when it is about to
destroy their own politics and leadership. So, the political leaders
cannot escape their responsibility if they want to live and do

When bomb attack was made in August then also US FBI and British
special police officials came. But the case remained unresolved. This
time we must be able to make best use of international cooperation to
punish the political terrorists.



03. Will it be yet another missed opportunity?
Shamsul Huq Zahid

FORMER finance minister, a top order diplomat and an international
civil servant SAMS Kibria was killed in a grenade attack at a public
function at Habiganj Thursday last. The entire nation was deeply
shocked and angered by this cowardly attack in which one of the
illustrious sons of this soil had to die an unnatural death for no
plausible reason.

The political implications aside, the effect of this ghastly act, the
18th since 1999, on business and investment, many fear, might turn out
to be disastrous.

There is no denying that there has been a surge in business and
investment activities for the last couple of years with macro-economic
indicators remaining on the right track except for the price
situation. Local as well as foreign investment has registered an
uptrend and many more leading foreign companies expressed their clear
intention to come to Bangladesh in a big way. All these rosy prospects
in business and investment are now at risk. The repeated incidents of
bomb attacks in public places are likely to sap all the enthusiasm of
businesses and investors -- local and foreign -- and the country
stands the chance of going back to old days marked, by poor investment
and lesser economic activities.

The multilateral donors and prospective investors have always been
concerned about confrontational politics, which, according to them, is
one of the major impediments to economic progress and prosperity of
Bangladesh. Such a concern is based on past events and the existing
relations between the main ruling party - the Bangladesh Nationalist
Party (BNP) and the main opposition - Bangladesh Awami League (BAL).
There is no valid reason, at least, for now to believe that relations
between the two parties would improve within a foreseeable future.

But are the two main parties anyway involved in the incidents of such
major bomb attacks? Most people tend to believe that neither BNP nor
AL is involved in these attacks. Then who are behind all these ghastly
acts? According to a newspaper report, a total of 148 persons were
killed and many more injured in major bomb attack incidents since
1999. It is true that not all the incidents were planned and executed
by one particular group. But it is generally believed that incidents
of grenade attack on the British High Commissioner at the shrine of
Hazrat Shahjalal ®, AL rally on August 21 and the latest one at
Habiganj are the handiwork of one particular quarter.

The occurrence of bomb attacks one after another and failure of the
law-enforcing agencies to identify the quarters working behind those
have given rise to all the wild speculations. Some tend to believe
that foreign hands are very much active in engineering all these
attacks to create instability within Bangladesh and some others blame
either 'Islamist extremists' or activists of the underground parties
for all these attacks. Since the police have failed to detect the real
culprits responsible for even a single incident, such wild guesses are
very natural.

It all started with the bomb attack on an Udichi cultural function in
Jessore in 1999. As a matter of tradition, the rival political parties
tried to cash in on such an incident without going all-out to nab the
real culprits. Since then, after regular intervals, the incidents of
bomb attack have been going on. And immediately after every incident,
the main political rivals religiously engaged themselves in the usual
act of mudslinging. Unfortunately, this kind of rivalry does leave a
negative impact on the activities of the agencies responsible for
investigating serious criminal acts. When these agencies see that the
government leaders themselves are blaming the opposition party that
comes under bomb attack frequently, they lose all their enthusiasm in
carrying out their investigation.

The top leaders of the ruling BNP after the killing of SAMS Kibria
have pledged to do everything possible to nab the people who
masterminded the attack. The government has, reportedly, sought help
from Interpol, FBI and Scotland Yard in this respect. But neither the
victims of such attacks nor the people in general do find any reason
to put their faith in such pledges that also came in plenty following
the August 21 AL rally attack. Lots of foreign investigators,
including some from Interpol, had also come. But until now, nothing
has come out.

Most people believe that finding the real hands behind all major bomb
attacks does not require foreign experts or investigators. The police,
if they desire so, are enough to detect the masterminds of the heinous
attacks on political rallies that have claimed so many innocent lives.
But the question is whether the police and their masters would want
them to do the real job.

The leaders across the political divide do need to realise the fact
that what has happened to Kibria and Ivy Rahman might one day be true
for them also. Maybe, the killers are stalking them, too. So, it is
high time that they should put their heads together to find out the
masterminds of these attacks and punish them befittingly. That would
make them risk-free and help remove an uneasy situation from the
national life.

A few questions might be agitating the minds of many. Why was not a
helicopter sent to Habiganj to bring Kibria to Dhaka? Did the district
administration inform the higher authorities in Dhaka about the
ghastly incident?