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     Volume 4 Issue 14 | September 24, 2004 |

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News Notes

Grenade attack probe set to fizzle out
The probe into the August 21 assassination attempt on Awami League president Sheikh Hasina appears to be on its way to fizzling out as local investigators shift their focus on something else. The repeated visits by Interpol and FBI experts and the formation of a high-powered judicial probe commission as well as a declaration of a Tk 1 crore reward for information leading to the nabbing of the culprits yielded no result. Although results of the Interpol and the FBI experts are yet to fall in the hands of the investigators, the hope for solving the case seems faint. On September 20, an investigator who wanted to remain anonymous said to a Daily Star reporter that it is impossible for them to get any lead and that the mystery would remain unresolved until witnesses identified the attackers or unless anyone admitted to their role in the attack.

The local investigator did not even care for preserving the evidence of the frightful incident, neither did they provide the international experts with enough evidence and information. The most repeated reply from them is that the "probe is on and nothing can be disclosed at this stage." But the fact remains that not a single perpetrator was arrested in connection to the grenade attack.

During the time the foreign experts were engaged in collecting evidence in Dhaka, the local investigating agencies kept them cordoned off and never let the press to find out anything about the on-going investigation. The four who were arrested were an effort on the part of the investigators to give semblence of progress in the investigation, but in reality they have no connection whatsoever to the attack.

It is interesting to note that the two grenades -- one found near the spot and the other in the adjacent Gulistan Hawkers' Market -- were detonated by the army explosive experts. That too was done at the dead of night. The army expert collected two other bombs the day after the attack -- one from the same market and another from the Dhaka Central Jail. These unexploded grenades as well as the exploded ones were crucial evidence for the investigators. Yet the authorities did not even save them as evidence let alone pursue an effective investigation on the source of the grenades as well as who could have handled them. As with the grenades, the authorities quickly buried two of the victims at Azimpur Graveyard on August 22 night although unclaimed bodies are supposed to be kept at the mortuary for at least 72 hours for identification.

As for the judicial probe, the commission failed to submit its report by September 11 and were given 21 more days. It so far has recorded deposition of 117 people including DB, SB and CID men and the policemen who were present at the rally. They failed to collect deposition of DGFI and NSI men, as they are yet to get the list. Meanwhile, the Tk. 1 crore bounty did not prompt a single person to come forward with any information and the press is in the dark as from the Home Minister to the investigating officers of different agencies, refrained from commenting on the recent developments, if any.

Bangladesh-India Relationship Back on Track
After an arduous roller coaster ride, Bangladesh-India relationship, it seems, is back on track again. The characteristic love-hate relationship between two South Asian neighbours turned markedly sour when Bangladeshi Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan lambasted India for "unfair trade". "If the larger neighbour of Bangladesh continues to blame it for things across the spectrum, future bilateral discussions would be at jeopardy," a belligerent Morshed told an audience of young journalists in Dhaka when Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Veena Sikri looked on.

Delhi angrily reacted to Morshed's comment; Shyam Saran, Indian foreign secretary summoned Bangladeshi high commissioner to India Hemayetuddin to the External Affairs Ministry (EAM) and asked him to convey Delhi's dismay over Morshed's comment. "India has always looked upon Bangladesh as a close friend and valued partner. At a recent high-level interactions conducted in a friendly atmosphere, he reiterated their desire to take the bilateral relationship further," a statement by the EAM said.

War of words, however, could not damage the home secretary level talks that ended last Sunday. Instead of accepting Indian proposal of joint security operations across the borders, both the countries agreed to co-ordinated patrols in their own territories by their respective border guards.

India, in its turn, tabled a three-point proposal to implement the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement signed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indiira Gandhi. Indian side failed to give any specific detail of 195 insurgent camps, which, according to the Indian claim, had been operating on Bangladeshi soil. "We exchanged our positions and explained our positions," Indian home secretary said at a joint-press conference held after the three-day meeting. Dhaka, however, agreed to grant double entry and exit visas to Indian citizens.

Both sides agreed to sit together again next January.

A Wedding Party Tragedy
A gruesome accident took away the lives of a number of innocent people, mostly women and children, once again, owing to the carelessness of the police. In the early hours of September 17, a head-on collision between a wedding party bus and a speeding truck killed 26 people, injuring 56 others, some of them very critical. About 80 wedding guests, on the bus to Anwara from Chitagong town, slammed into a truck at a sharp turn in Charpatharghata at about 12:30 am.

Witnesses and local people blamed the accident on the police who seemingly chased the truck to the accident, sending it running full-pelt on Chittagong-Cox's Bazaar Road. Azizul Haq, the only survivor from the truck, said that the truck coming from Cox's Bazaar was to unload logs at a timber shop. As they reached Patiya College Road, some police personnel stopped the truck and the log owner, Kamal Pasha, who was following them on a motor cycle, handed over 'something' to the policemen before signalling them to go ahead. As the truck started moving again with Kamal Pasha following, the police officers suddenly began chasing it. Meanwhile, another witness, preferring anonymity, alleged that some policemen appeared on the scene right after the accident and removed the number plate from the truck. However, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Karnaphuli Police Station Md. Harun told The Daily Star that they arrived there less than half an hour after the accident but did not find any number plate on the truck.

Eleven people, including the drivers and helpers of both vehicles, died instantly and six died on their way to hospital. The rest bled to death before or after their names could be registered with Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH), triggering fears of more casualties. The wedding guests were returning home from an evening marriage ceremony of Mohammad Iqbal, a mason, in Dhanialapara in Double Mooring.

Survivors from the accident are still reeling from their ghastly experience. A shocked silence reigned when some of the injured at Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) narrated the incident.

Noorjahan, 40, grimacing in pain on the floor of the neuro-surgery ward, was in no condition to speak. Four of her five sons injured in the accident were undergoing treatment at the same ward. But she was yet to know that her husband and son had died.

"I was sitting in the back seat and jumped out of the bus through an window moments after the collision," said Shahidul Islam, the eight-year-old son of Noorjahan, to The Daily Star.

Dilwara Begum, 35, wife of Liakat Hossain, a Bangladeshi expatriate in Dubai, narrowly survived the crash but lost teenage sister-in-law (Liakat's sister) Sahila Akhtar and her two children were critically injured. Describing the nightmare, she added,"I was virtually buried under 30 to 40 injured or dead passengers. I could hardly breathe. After a few minutes, I pushed through the bodies."

The CMCH director told The Daily Star that there was sufficient stock of blood and medicines and all physicians and other hospital staff were putting in all efforts to treat the injured. "We upgraded our treatment facility as part of a disaster management plan after the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in Dhaka. We are capable of treating about 200 patients at a time," Dr Khan said.


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