Police fail to track down 16 absconding convicts in Aug 21 grenade attack case

  • Liton Haider, Chief Crime Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2019-08-21 01:24:24 BdST

Almost a year on from the verdict in the Aug 21 grenade attack case, police are yet to make any headway in tracking down the 16 absconding convicts -- four of whom are on Interpol's red notices list.

Despite listing BNP's Acting Chairman Tarique Rahman and the party's former MP Shah Mofazzal Hossain Kaikobad, Interpol later removed the red notices issued for them.

Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the deadly terror attack, CID's Additional DIG Khandaker Rafiqul Islam on Tuesday said when the verdict was announced, 18 convicts were still at large.

But the number dropped to 16 after former police DIG Khan Sayeed Hasan and deputy commissioner Obaidur Rahman surrendered themselves to court recently.

Of the 16 convicts, red notices against four -- militant leader Maulana Md Tajuddin Mia, former political adviser to the prime minister Haris Chowdhury, Ratul Ahmed Babu and owner of Hanif Paribahan transport group Mohammad Hanif -- are still effective, said AIG Mohiul Islam, who is serving in Interpol's Bangladesh National Central Bureau.

Regular talks are being held with Interpol over reinstating the red notices against Tarique and Kaikobad, he added.

Mohiul said the red notice against Tarique was issued on Apr 13, 2015 before being revoked a year later on Jan 26. Alternatively, the red notice against Kaikobad was issued on Nov 12, 2015. Interpol subsequently withdrew it on May 4 last year.

As per its constitution, Interpol cannot publish a notice if it requires the organisation to undertake activities of a political, military, religious, or racial character.

They (Interpol) enlisted lobbyists and cited political reasons for rescinding the notices, said Mohiul.

Police do not have any clear information on the whereabouts of the fugitives.

But officials believe Tajuddin is currently in South Africa or Pakistan, Haris in Malaysia or London, Kaikobad in the Middle East, Hanif in India or Malaysia, former army officials ATM Amin and Saiful Joarder in the US and Canada, respectively, Ratul in South Africa, and Anisul Mursalin alias Mursalin and Mohibul Muktakin are in India's Tihar Jail. 

Khaleda Zia's son Tarique has been living in the UK for a decade. But talks of extraditing him to Bangladesh by the government have yet to yield any result.

The 10 fugitives against whom have not been issued red notices are – retired Lt Col Saiful Islam Joardar, former director of DGFI retired Major General ATM Amin Ahmed, Md Iqbal, Mohibul Muktakin, Anisul Morsalin, Mohammed Khalil, Maulana Liton alias Delwar Hossain alias Zobayer, Jahangir Alam Badar, Mufti Shafiqur Rahman and Mufti Abdul Hai.

A total of 24 people were killed and many others injured when a series of grenades ripped through the meeting venue of Awami League, then in opposition, on Bangabandhu Avenue on Aug 21, 2004.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then the opposition leader, was addressing the rally at that time.

Many of the injured suffered permanent physical deformities as they were maimed. Hasina suffered hearing loss and was under treatment at home and abroad for many years.

The Criminal Investigation Department or CID pressed charges in court on Jun 11, 2008 during the military-backed caretaker government.

Some 30 others, including Tarique, were added to the list of accused following wider investigations after the Awami League came to power in 2009.  A total 52 suspects, including police officers, were implicated in the case.

The number had whittled down to 49 after three other accused, former minister and Jamaat secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and militant leaders Mufti Abdul Hannan and Sharif Shahedul Alam alias Bipul were hanged after convictions in other cases.

Of the 49, a Dhaka court sentenced 19 to life imprisonment and 11 to different jail terms on Oct 10, 2018.