Vol. 5 Num 33 Mon. June 28, 2004  
Front Page

Khulna editor bombed to death by outlaws
Janajuddha claims responsibility; journalists in the southwestern city call hartal for tomorrow

Dainik Janmabhumi Editor Humayun Kabir Balu was killed and his elder son injured in a bomb attack yesterday apparently by a leftist extremist posing as a peanut vendor in southwestern Khulna City, police and witnesses said.

Balu, 58, also president of Khulna Press Club, suffered critical injuries to his back and legs at 12:15pm in front of his house-cum-office on Islampur Road soon after getting down from his car and died at Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH) at 1:50pm, sparking protests.

The Janajuddha faction of outlawed Purbo Banglar Communist Party claimed responsibility for the killing by cellphone to a photojournalist at Khulna Press Club, but police could not confirm the claim.

His death was the second high-profile journalist killing after New Age's special correspondent Manik Chandra Saha on January 15 in the city, dubbed as the valley of death for bloodshed by outlaws.

Witnesses said a young man approached Balu when his car pulled over in front of the house from his mother's Iqbalnagar house and hurled at least two bombs from his peanut basket at him in the well-orchestrated attack, rocking the entire area and badly damaging the car.

His younger son and daughter, who were also in the car, survived the attack unscathed. The elder son, Asif Kabir, is being treated for splinter injuries at a city clinic.

As the news of Balu's death in the operating theatre of the KMCH broke, hundreds of shell-shocked people, including journalists, political leaders and other professionals gathered outside the hospital, disconsolate with grief at the fatal frequency of violence in the otherwise serene city.

According to his family, Balu, serving his third stint as Khulna Press Club president since last October, received several death threats from outlaws for espousing a bold stand against them in his mass-circulation local newspaper and fuelling anti-outlaw sentiment in the wake of Manik's killing.

His latest death threat came from the Janajuddha faction.

Akbar Ali, deputy commissioner (South) of Khulna Metropolitan Police, blamed the outlaws operating in Khulna, the heart of restive southwest, for the killing. But he would not give details.

Paramilitaries of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) were called in to assist armed police to maintain peace.

Police retrieved two live hand bombs from the peanut basket left behind in the UNO Park opposite the house of Balu by the killer.

The killing of Balu, a valiant freedom fighter with an opulent past in student politics, triggered a wave of protest in Khulna and elsewhere.

The main opposition Awami League (AL) brought out a huge protest procession in Khulna, demanding immediate arrest and exemplary punishment to the killers and will stage countrywide demonstrations tomorrow.

An emergency meeting of AL Central Working Committee with party President Sheikh Hasina in the chair also decided to hold a press conference on June 30 from where it will announce the next course of agitation programmes.

Hasina, also the leader of the opposition, is likely to visit Khulna today to protest the killing and express sympathy for the members of the bereaved family.

She is also likely to address a protest rally at Khulna Press Club.

BNP leaders including Mayor Shaikh Tayebur Rahman condemned the killing.

Khulna-based journalists unveiled a seven-day mourning and protest programmes including a daylong hartal tomorrow and a mourning rally on July 1 in Khulna.

Other programmes include holding a protest rally, wearing black badges, hoisting black flags at the press club and all local newspaper offices, staging mourning procession and offering milad mahfil.

The leaders of Khulna Press Club, Khulna Union of Journalists (KUJ) and Metropolitan Union of Journalists (MUJ) and editors of local dailies in separate statements demanded exemplary punishment to the killers.

The coffin of Balu was kept at his house to enable people to pay their last respect to him before burial at Basupara graveyard today, after a namaz-e-Janaza at Shahid Hadis Park at 11:00am and another at Iqbalnagar Mosque after Zohr prayers.

Balu, who was born in Itna village in Narail on October 4, 1947, participated in the movement against Hamidur Rahman Education Commission in 1962 long before doing his BA in 1974.

He became the joint convenor of 'Swadhin Bangla Chhatra Sangram Parishad' during the Liberation War, the central committee vice-president of Chhatra League in 1970 and represented Bangladesh to a youth rally in Berlin in 1972.

He was elected publicity secretary of Khulna City Awami League in 1976.

Balu was elected president of Khulna Press Club in 1984, 1998 and 2003. He became the vice-president of Khulna Zonal Newspaper Editors' Association in 1990 and a member of Mongla Port Authority in 1998.

In 1992, he received the president's award and the gold medal of Dr Ashraf Siddiqui Foundation the next year for his contribution to journalism.

Balu is survived by his 80-year-old mother, two sons and a daughter. His first wife Akhtar Jahan Ruma died of cancer in 1981, leaving behind their son Asif. His second wife Ara Kabir, mother of son Ashik and daughter Tumpa, died of a stroke in 2001.

Clockwise from top left, a file photo of Dainik Janmabhumi Editor Humayun Kabir Balu, his elder son Asif Kabir receives treatment at a Khulna clinic for wounds and the family wails over his killing by leftist extremists in the southwestern city yesterday. PHOTO: STAR