Vol. 5 Num 241 Fri. January 28, 2005  
Front Page

A grisly reminder of unsolved killings

It has the chilling similarity to the August 21 grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina. The venue is a public rally, the speakers and participants all Awami League workers. The timing of attacks is just when the rallies ended. Even the weapon of murder is the same -- deadly hand-grenades.

But more chilling is the fact that the government remained surreptitiously silent about the previous events. Probes fizzled out leaving the killers under a safe shield even after several international inquiries. More ominous is the fact that early signs of grisly attacks were there as huge arms were seized -- in Chittagong, Bogra and the capital. Email threats were abound. But everything remained under a mysterious cover as the government refused to bring the 'plot' to light.

Yesterday's grenade attacks in Habiganj only left the nation wondering and guessing who could be the killers and what could be their ulterior motives behind such killings of opposition leaders mostly belonging to the Awami League leaders and the progressive section of the society.

Even five months after the assassination attempt on Hasina, probes were still in the wilderness and even sidetracked with the attention diverted to an unnamed country and the opposition itself both by a controversial judicial probe and government high-ups.

And the trigger-happy killers, boosted by the government's inaction, took another chance this time, killing former finance minister SAMS Kibria.

Major bomb blasts that left 150 people killed and about 1,000 injured in the last six years still stand unresolved as the attackers remain unpunished revelling in the politicisation of the probes.

After each attack, the authorities started probes, sometimes several simultaneous investigations, but almost all of them stalled halfway for reasons not known.

Intelligence operatives, who on several occasions voiced suspicion that Islamist militants might have links to some of the explosions, said pressure from the government high-ups did not let them go ahead with the investigations.

An explosion at a cultural function of Udichi in Jessore on March 6, 1999, which left 10 people dead and more than 100 injured, set off the series of bloody blasts across the country that would go on to date. Mostly the Awami League (AL) activists and the progressive forces have been the targets of these attacks.

Each in the long string of blasts had sent a wave of shock and anger across the country sparking strong protests and prompting the authorities to promise tough actions against the killers. But as time passed the probes sink even deeper into blame-shifting keeping the victims' relatives as well as the people on the edge.

The same old tale unfolded on all previous occasions when bomb attacks claimed human lives and inquiry committees were formed and cases were filed briskly. None of the criminals has yet been convicted and awarded punishment prescribed by law for such offences.

The political blame game over the blasts, however, continue unabated between the government and the opposition as the culprits remain out of the reach. In each incident during the last AL rule, the government blamed an 'alliance between the religious extremists and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party'. And similarly when they happened under the coalition rule, the government took no time to shift the blame onto the main opposition AL.

In most of the cases, the authorities have even failed to find out the criminals responsible for the attacks.

On October 8, 1999, eight people were killed and 30 others injured in a bomb blast at Ahmedia Masjid in Khulna. In the same year bomb blast killed four persons at Alal Pak Darbarsharif ar Faridpur.

Seven people were killed in near-simultaneous bomb blasts at a rally of the Communist Party of Bangladesh at Paltan Maidan and near the Awami League (AL) headquarters on January 20, 2001.

On April 14, 2001, 10 people were killed and about 50 wounded in a blast at a cultural function at Ramna Batmul.

On June 3, 2001, 10 more were killed and 30 others injured in a bomb attack on a church at Baniarchang in Gopalganj.

On June 15, 2001, a bomb attack on the Awami League (AL) office at Narayanganj left as many as 22 people killed.

On September 23, 2001, eight people were killed and more than one hundred injured in a bomb attack on an AL public meeting at Mollahat in Bagerthat.

On September 26, 2001, four more people were killed in a blast near an AL rally in Sunamganj.

On September 28, 2002, more than 100 people were injured in a series of blasts at a cinema hall and circus pandel at Satkhira.

On December 6, 2002, bomb blasts in four cinema halls at Mymensingh town killed 27 and injured more than two hundred others.

On January 17, 2003 seven persons were killed and 20 others injured in a bomb blast at a fair in Tangail.

Three people were killed and British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Anwar Choudhury was among at least 70 injured in a powerful bomb blast at Hazrat Shahjalal Shrine in Sylhet on 21 May last year.

On August 21, 2004 grenade attacks on an AL rally in Dhaka left 21 including top AL leader Ivy Rahman dead and over 100 injured. AL President Sheikh Hasina narrowly escaped the attack believed to an attempt on her life.

Besides, in the last two months six incidents of bomb blasts in village fairs and cultural functions in Bogra, Natore, Jamalpur, Sherpur and Pabna districts had left two people dead and 145 injured. Intelligence men probing the blasts suspect that Islamist militants might have been involved in the explosions.

In most of the probes police have made little headway. Last year the law enforcers gave the final report in the CPB blast of 2001 without yielding anything against the persons responsible for the attack. Besides, they are preparing to submit final reports in the cases of Mymensingh cinema hall blasts, Tangail Shakhipur, Sylhet Shahjalal Shrine, Bagerhat and Baniarchang church blasts and these too without any result to punish the culprits.