EXCLUSIVEBlueprint for crossfire deaths

More than 300 people have been killed in RAB "crossfire". It's not crossfire as such, but -- as the allegation has it -- cold-blooded, icy orders that killed the suspects mostly in the middle of the night. Senior Correspondent Abu Sufian explores how officers laid out the death blueprint.

bdnews24.com
Published : 21 Oct 2006, 12:00 PM
Updated : 21 Oct 2006, 12:00 PM
Abu Sufian
Senior bdnews24.com Correspondent
Dhaka, Oct 22 (bdnews24.com) – A court order: highest punishment for the arrestee. An order by top RAB officials to kill criminals in cold-blood in so-called crossfire.
On-deputation military officers, lieutenant colonel or equivalent, pressed into the elite force are blamed for killing suspects in 'crossfire' without giving them the right to defence in the legal system.
In one typical example, the RAB prepared a six-page profile on a suspect, which included a paragraph on 'probable reactions' to the killing.
"There is no possibility of adverse reaction and tension in businesses and political circles if highest punishment is executed. But a few top leaders in opposition can cash in on the issue," it says.
bdnews24.com has collected a copy of the report on a high-profile criminal, prepared by RAB officials. The report details how RAB personnel execute recommendations to kill criminals in the name of 'crossfire'.
Some 302 people were killed in RAB 'crossfire' from June 2004 (when RAB was set up) to the end of September 2006. Crossfire deaths bring to mind the killings of 58 people in 87 days of Operation Clean Heart by the army in 2002. A law was signed to indemnify the killings.
Most arrestees—legs and hands bound—were shot in the head in the middle of the night if the RAB director general approved the crossfire. Crossfire victims were found with chest and belly injuries although they were led into crossfire in bulletproof vests.
After arrest, the profile of each suspect was sent to the director general for approval, RAB sources said. At the bottom of the profile reads an instruction: highest punishment is recommended.
Asked what highest punishment meant, a RAB official said "crossfire".
The arrestees were killed in crossfire a few hours after the approval from the RAB supremo, who could not be reached for comment.
RAB's additional director general Colonel Mahbubul Alam Molla Sunday admitted preparing such profiles. He said the commanding officer of the battalion prepared the profiles of the suspects.
"In the paragraph of recommendation, the commanding officer described how the criminals would be treated," the ADG said, speaking to bdnews24.com.
Mollah said the commanding officers recommended highest punishment in the profiles.
Half an hour later, the ADG called bdnews24.com and asked this reporter to turn in the copy of the profile to the RAB headquarters.
bdnews24.com showed the profile to Barrister Rokanuddin Mahmud Tuesday who said it proved RAB killed people without trial.
"This is an outright violation of law. RAB or the police don't have such jurisdiction of recommendation," he said.
However big the crime may be, the criminal has the right to seek justice, the barrister said. "After proper investigation, the criminal must be taken to trial in the legal system. Only the court has the authority to try."
Post-crossfire press statements by RAB's legal and media wing have all been similar. RAB sources say they have a format of the press release stored on computer. The releases are sent to newspaper offices after filling in the blanks of the format for name, age, address and areas of arrest and crossfire.
At the morgue of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, some crossfire victims were found in bulletproof vests and handcuffs.
Describing events leading to crossfire, a RAB official said, "I saw some arrestees singing and asking for cigarettes before crossfire."
One of the victims was Shahabuddin killed in RAB crossfire in late 2004. Shahabuddin had a history of extortion in Karwan Bazar.
A senior RAB official rang the bdnews24.com correspondent up before the crossfire to say: "Can you make a profile of Shahabuddin? You will get the details later."
At about 1:30am the same night, the RAB official called again and said: "Shahabuddin died in an encounter when he tried to escape."
Several times RAB officials made phone calls to the bdnews24.com reporter after arrest and crossfire. A RAB official, asking not to be named, said: "There is no other alternative to curb crime."
Seven RAB officials were honoured with president's police medals in 2006 for 'professional distinction':
Lt Commander Mustafa Kamal, deputy director of RAB-2, led seven incidents of crossfire in one year that killed Wahidul and Apon Sheikh in Jessore.
Captain Tarique Rahman Khan of RAB-7 led the crossfire of Chittagong's top terror Gias Hazarika, Lieutenant ATM Shahin Parvez of RAB-7 ordered highest punishment to Gittu Nasir in Hathazari.
RAB-4's Captain SM Sajjad Hossain led the crossfire of Tapu, Razib, Naziur Rahman, Fallainya, Seka and Grenade Nazrul.
Captain Iftekhar Ahmed of RAB-6 led the way in crossfire when Hachan Fakir died in Barisal. Former director of RAB-7 Lt. Col (now Col) Kazi Emdadul Haque led seven incidents of crossfire in which Ahamaidya Bahini operatives including its chief Ahamaidya died in Chittagong.
Captain Mohammad Asadullah Jamshed of RAB-3 spearheaded the crossfire leading to the death of underworld operative Mufakkhar.
The Police Week-2006 Magazine highlighted the distinction of the seven RAB officers.
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Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher