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Tuesday, October 27, 2009
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Aug 21 Attack on Hasina, AL Rally

It was Hawa Bhaban plot

The Daily Star investigation reveals some characters behind the chilling conspiracy to kill Hasina; Babar 'supplied' grenades; Huji used as mercenary group

It was a long, dark plot. A chilling conspiracy was getting final touches in an eerie August of 2004, a month that brings to mind the memories of a past bloodbath. The plot for a high-profile assassination was awaiting approval, again.

On August 14: At Hawa Bhaban -- the alternative powerhouse of the BNP-led coalition government. At least nine people sat to discuss a recommendation coming from a series of meetings in the past. The Awami League was branded as the archenemy for the country and Islam, and it was recommended that its president Sheikh Hasina must die.

State minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar, deputy minister Abdus Salam Pintu, prime minister's political secretary Harris Chowdhury, a fugitive killer of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a top Jamaat leader, two Huji founders and one leader of Al Markajul Islami found no reason to disagree. In the presence of a top Hawa Bhaban bigwig, they chose to kill.

On August 15: At the same office, the same group sat again. This time they discussed how to accomplish the mission. The fugitive killer suggested Hasina be attacked at her home, on road or at a rally. They settled for a rally, just six days away.

Now it was time they chose weapons. “Grenades are no problem,” said Babar. Earlier on April 2, 10 truckloads of smuggled arms and ammunition were seized in Chittagong and two more trucks reportedly went missing.

They decided to use grenades and rifles in the operation that was to be carried out either at Muktangon or in front of AL's central office on Bangabandhu Avenue. The government was dithering over the permission for the rally.

The Daily Star obtained a highly privileged document in which a top accused of the grenade carnage gave some descriptions about how the killing mission had been organised. Most of the people whose names surfaced in the narration are either in jail or on the run and could not be contacted for comment.

Apart from Huji leaders, this correspondent talked with investigators and intelligence officials involved with the probe over the last five years, who privately disclosed that Huji men had been used like mercenaries.

Huji made the first abortive attempt in Kotalipara way back in 2000, led by its leader Mufti Abdul Hannan. Several groups had since pressed ahead with plots to assassinate Hasina, and the August 21, 2004 attempt was apparently under the patronage of some BNP-Jamaat leaders, said several intelligence and Huji sources.

Detained Salam Pintu is also maintaining the story he told interrogators upon his arrest in 2008 that the administration and Hawa Bhaban were behind the bloodletting. “Go and interrogate Babar and beyond. You will find the truth,” he was quoted as saying by different sources.

Jailed already for 17 years in an arms case, Babar was finally shown arrested in the case yesterday.

The Criminal Investigation Department will now quiz Babar to dig more into his alleged role and identify people beyond him in manipulating the administration to orchestrate the horrendous attack on Bangabandhu Avenue that missed its prime target Hasina but left 23 dead and over 300 injured for life.

However, investigators are not sure as yet if the hair-raising conspiracy was designed with or without the knowledge of the then prime minister Khaleda Zia.

The alleged conspirators next gathered at Babar's official residence on Bailey Road without the Hawa Bhaban bigwig. A friend of Babar, who was a transport businessman, was present for the first time at the meeting. He handed over Tk 50,000 to Huji leaders for petty expenses upon a review of nitty-gritty in the mission.

On August 18: Babar arrived at Abdus Salam Pintu's residence along with two black jeeps. At his instruction, BNP man Arifur Rahman Arif handed over a dozen of grenades to Huji leaders. Arif, also a Dhaka City Corporation commissioner from ward 53, is now in jail for links to two blast incidents at a CPB rally in Paltan and Narayanganj. Sources said he had been also interrogated over his involvement in the August 21 incidents while on remand.

At the time, Mufti Hannan was present along with Moulana Tajuddin, the younger brother of Salam Pintu who has strong connections with Pakistan-based extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Two boxes contained five grenades each and two more were partially wrapped. The grenades were marked with 'POF' (Pakistan Ordnance Factories), Huji sources told The Daily Star.

Though the exact number of attackers could not be confirmed, the document unearthed the presence of several groups apart from the Huji to carry out operations on the day. It also claimed that 15 people from Jamaat took part in the attack.

The assailants struck at 5:22 in the afternoon.

An influential Huji leader blamed the failure on a lack of coordination among the groups even though they were reportedly assisted by a section of policemen and intelligence officials on the spot.

None of the available documents -- the charge sheet of Fazlul Kabir, the third investigation officer in the case, and the confessional statement of Mufti Hannan -- could reveal all the details of the conspiracy before.

Preferring not to be named, a number of officials involved with the investigations told The Daily Star that the truth was buried deep under a heap of lies as Babar led the cover-up mission as soon as the operation fell through.

With the nation reeling from shocks, a few groups of intelligence and police officials were busy then destroying, not collecting, evidence systematically from the crime scene. The evidence that could have been invaluable in the probes was swept under the rug, with unexploded grenades being detonated within nine hours after the attack. Two bodies were reported unclaimed and buried in Azimpur graveyard, without any post-mortem.

Steps had been taken to initiate stage-managed probes and fictitious characters were produced out of the blue to scuttle investigations throughout the tenure of coalition government.

Even a judicial investigation came into play a day after the attack. The one-man inquiry commission of Justice Joynul Abedin found out the hand of 'a foreign enemy country' in the incident in a quick probe that took only 40 days.

Under the direct supervision of Babar, a criminal investigation led to the arrest of 20 people, including a student, Shaibal Saha Partha, and AL leader and ward commissioner Mokhlesur Rahman. The arrestees had experienced a lot of harassment and torture but were not found guilty in the charge sheet.

A strange twist appeared in the mockery of probes as the government disclosed that a mere criminal gang had carried out the attacks and flashed the 'confession' of one Joj Miah as proof.

Finally, the caretaker administration found that those confessional statements had been obtained by force at the diktat of the BNP-led government. CID investigators and supervising officer Ruhul Amin involved with the probe were found to have paid Joj Miah's family Tk 2,000 a month during his detention.

Joj Miah walked out of jail recently but three CID officials were 'assigned' to mislead the investigation by their own department.

Upon arrest on October 1, 2005, Mufti Hannan blurted out the involvement of his outfit in all terror attacks including the one of August 21. He was shown arrested in all but the August 21 case during the rule of BNP-Jamaat government. His confession was made officially public in 2007 during Fakhruddin Ahmed's caretaker rule.

Former CID inspector Munshi Atiqur Rahman said he tried for long to arrest Hannan following several bomb and grenade attacks but was not successful as the BNP-Jamaat government was 'reluctant'. "They were soft on Mufti," said Atiq, adding that even a number of former ministers and lawmakers recommended relieving Hannan of different cases.

The blatant manipulation of the administration by the BNP government was nothing new, as its front-ranking leaders led by Tarique Rahman, Babar, and Aminul Haque made headlines by patronising Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh from 2004. Bangla Bhai, hanged by the caretaker government in 2007, boasted his relationship with Tarique and visits to Hawa Bhaban.

However, amid AL insistence on international probes, the government had eventually let the FBI, Interpol and Scotland Yards fly in. But none of their observations or findings was made public.

On the other hand, Tarique's trip to the US in May 2005 following FBI's several visits to Bangladesh raised a lot of questions, speculation and curiosity both at home and abroad. Strangely, Tarique visited both Pentagon and FBI along with former National Security Intelligence boss Major General (retd) Rezakul Haider Chowdhury. The outcome of the meetings is still under wraps.

Rezakul Haider is now detained and shown arrested in the 10-truck ammo haul case. Also, Tarique reportedly went to Dubai along with Rezakul for a meeting with mafia don Daud Ibrahim months before the lethal consignment smuggled into Chittagong.

Meanwhile, officials involved with the investigation appeared hopeful that more of the truth behind the attack is bound to come out in the further investigation by CID. “Point of a compass can be taken from north to south by force, but, when freed, it comes back to its right place. In a free investigation, the truth will come out like that,” an investigator told The Daily Star.

But Salam Pintu differed in May while being quizzed again during the further investigation. “What is the point in having a further probe as the charge sheet as it is doesn't represent a complete investigation? A fresh investigation will only expose the links of all influential people behind the attacks.”

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They know the name of many people but not the Hawa Bhaban bigwig? Someone scared to tell the whole truth.

: Sawgat Chowdhury

For the existence of this govt. and for ensuring further security to our PM and for the security of our freedom, the truth must come out. BDR carnage, attack on MP Barrister Taposh, attempts to create various anarchy show that BNP and its allies are actively attempting to regain state power in order to stop all these investigations. People must show their determination to resist the revival of these crimes.

: Salman Haider

Comments

  • frustrated patriot
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 02:20 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Doesn’t the country have more important issues at hand than all this about who tried to hurt Hasina? People are hungry...businss sector is underperforming. In fact, the country would go hungry if not for ourside asssitance...and all we hear about it...how the trial of the '75 killers is going.

  • Mobaidul Huq
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 02:58 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    A chilling story. This is not what should happen in a democratic country. Everybody knows what Awami League is. The best way to change government is to go to the people and have an election. It is the people who will decide in democracy. Killing is not the way of democracy

  • A.K.M.Zihadur Rahman
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 03:11 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Lutfozzaman Babor is big terrorist in Bangladesh.

  • Haroon Habib
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 03:45 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    I thank The Daily Star and Julfikar Ali Manik for this indepth investigation. Let there be further investigation to identify other bosses of Hawa Bhaban, who played key roles in carrying out the heinous crime.

  • sajjad
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 04:52 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Extremely informative and the investigation should continue so that truth be revealed without biases.

  • Sama
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 06:31 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Dear Editor

    A big thanks for unearthing the such a chilling story that the then Home Minister being the lynch pin in planning to kill the daughter of Bangabandhu. What needs to be mentioned that the then ruling party's blessing for extremist. I still fail to understand what could be acheived by patronising these extremist elements. How would we be viewed by the comity of nations with these extremist unleashed. It is still time to take some action against those whose extreme views and terror tactics make them think that they will reign supreme and will have a say in every sphere of our life.

    Just to quote the Pakistani General who proudly mentioned that the: Pak Army's offensive in NWF Province is working well as extremist are trimming their head and shaving their beard and trying to mix with the civilian population and looking way out from the valley's. Maybe, some TV channel should replay the press briefing and show to the extremist that their days are numbered here and elsewhere.

  • Nizam
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 07:56 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    If the government ministers planned it how could they miss the target or was it just to scare the top leadership on the truck?

  • md ziaul haque
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 08:00 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    It is surprising in that No leaders of BNP carrying splinter of the grenades. This is the party which has long past in condoning, citing, partronizing terrorists in the name of religion. CAN BNP shun these politics?

  • SYED RASHID
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 08:12 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    I am surprised by the courage of the Daily Star that they eventually dig out the truth. Hope they can continue to do their publication until it finished and right people will get appropriate punishment. These incident does not surprise people of Bangladesh people.

  • Shafiqul Islam
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 08:52 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    It is alarming indeed. All criminals involved in this must be brought to task.

  • Arati Sen
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 09:28 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Your correspondent dishes out a story planted by CID without verification and providing any concrete evidence. Having a statement purported to have been made by a person under custody is not good enough. DS should be more circumspect with such news reports. Partisan politics should have no role in investigation of this nature.

  • Manju Hydar
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:31 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    If it's really fact then the govt. should expose every details to the media for the general people. And the opposition should not make any controversy to save the real culprits. We should keep in mind that in this way we lost Father of nation Sk. Mujibur Rahaman and the president Zia Ur Rahaman.

  • A Rahim Khan
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:44 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Is it true? If it is I want to see a fair trial. But please do not make fun of it.

  • Ahmad
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:00 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    I think Sheik Hasina should act to stop arresting only BNP leaders. It shows how this government is one sided. I do not see any reason to act this way.

  • Dr. M. Tajul Islam
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:15 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Bold authentic and in depth reporting. Thanks daily star and zulfiqur manik for this briliant work. It will set a high standard in the field of journalism and the readers will love such endevour

  • Altaf
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:29 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Even an idiot can tell that the BNP-Jamaat govt that time frantically destroyed all the evidence just to save a BIG FISH, a very BIG ONE. Arresting completely innocent people and torturing them in remand, and getting forced confession from Jozz Miah only expose the very ugly face of that govt. These people don't waste any opportunity to abuse Islam in the worst possible way.

  • Md. Abdullah
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:53 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Good story. Carry on. But people of the country want to know the fact not story. We don't want August 2004 blast anymore, we dont want any political killing which took 23 innocent lives. We want a country where everyone have their right to express their view without stopping others view.

  • Zahid
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 12:57 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Good report

  • Jabed
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 04:02 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    I wish to say Big Thank you to The Editor of The Daily Star for this brave revelation of our ex-home minister's activity with other lawmakers of BNP.

  • Mia Mohammed Shamim
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:48 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    They wanted to make the country hell???

    Government should make a unbiased investigation through the cases and bring all the culprit under the rule of law.

  • Saleque Sufi
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 01:46 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    The Daily Star after investigation found all names but the name of the bigwig of Hawa Bhaban and they name of fugitive killer of Bangabandhu they hesitate to publish. What does it mean? Objective journalism or what? They have called these persons suspects in any case. If it was a Hawa Bhaban plot everyone knows who led Hawa Bhaban. We expect DS would clarify.

  • Tahmid zaman
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 03:14 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Every reasonable man understands that accepting the approval from Tarique or his mother, state or deputy ministers of BNP-Jamat government can not be involved in the mission to kill Hasina and other AL leaders. Question is would they be tried and punished or be let free of US and Arab countries pressure?

  • AmarAmi
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 07:17 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Thanks for the report. The Daily Star advertises that they do journalism without favour or fear.

    So keeping the above slogan in mind I have to ask a question.

    Who is this Hawa bhaban bigwig? Why are you scared to print Tarique Rahman's Name?

  • Sheehab
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 05:49 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Thanks for the story.There is nothing new in this article.

    Mr Manik, you just compiled reports which are allready known to the mass people like us. There is nothing new at all. Please, don't make reports to increase the sale of your daily.

    Have courage to speak the truth and give us something more authentic.

  • Subhasish Purkayastha
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 12:33 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Its really our misfortune that we got Babar as our home minister.

  • Dr. Ishtiaq Hossain
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 04:28 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    What is the future of Bangladesh, if ministers are allegedly involved in plotting the assassinations of opposition political leaders?

  • MD ZIAUL HAQUE
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 05:23 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    BNP should restrain themselves from patronizing, sponsoring, and condoning such misdeeds. Through this it will come under close scaning by the people through media is now playing strong role

  • sanim
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:13 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    We are looking forward to see the more investigation regarding Aug 21st attack on Hasina.We want to know the name of all who led this heinous job and want to see their trial as soon as possible.

  • Abul Khayer
    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:42 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Thnaks for the breakthrough news. We want to know more & detail report about August 21 attack on Sheikh Hasina.

  • tithe
    Wednesday, October 28, 2009 01:02 AM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    It is a great investigation.

  • samaresh
    Friday, October 30, 2009 07:53 PM GMT+06:00 (265 weeks ago)

    Most investigative reporting by our dear Manik. Go ahead Manik. Also thanks to The Daily Star Authority.

    Hope Manik will continue his in-depth reporting as before.

    All the best wishes to Manik.

    Go ahead.


 

 


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