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News analysis

Another life lost in a shoot-out while in police custody

By Special Correspondent
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The killing of JMB (Jama'atul Mujahideen, Bangladesh) militant Rakib Hasan Russell who was a death row convict within several hours of his escape and recapture by a joint force of police and DB left the nation bewildered on a third question. That is the question is why as a high value terrorist, he was escorted in the midnight raid to villages to nab other militants and why he came under fire in the shoot outs and died while none of the outfits who attacked the forces and engaged them in the shooting apparently to snatch him were killed or arrested. It led many people to wonder whether it is a perceived case of shoot outs. It is clearly an extra-judicial killing like regular midnight 'shoot outs' in other cases. We hold the view that a death row convict who had fled away with two other militants would have been sent to high security jail immediately after his recapture.  It was a most common sense dictation. But the forces took him rather to midnight raids and lost. Without having any sympathy to JMB militants, we share the view that the government and particularly the law enforcers have an obligation to the court to preserve death row convicts until they were finally hanged. How the law enforcers may explain their midnight encounter in this case now or will there be any accountability to the court at all. This is a big question.    The entire episode has moreover raised the questions about flagrant violation of law and safety of people in the hand of forces destroying peace and stability of the nation.  Questions have also come to the fore about the handling of prisoners and especially the security of death row convicts in the jail and during the movement to and from the court to the jail. It showed a kind of total chaos in jail administration and lawlessness among the enforcers.The chaos and break down of law and order was further highlighted on Sunday when four students of Jahangirnagar University were able to flee away from a Dhaka court room immediately after the judge cancelled their bail on a murder case of a fellow student. It appears that the police administration has lost all effectiveness and professionalism while they are only chasing the opposition party leaders and workers violating the ethics as a disciplined force. In case of the JMB militants we can't figure out why the jail authorities sent the three dreaded JMB men to Mymensingh court with only three police escort. Had there been more escorts and intelligence support, the attack on the prison van could be averted and the life of a police man could be saved.  The JMB men raided the prison van with two microbuses from both sides. Moreover a truck was going slow on the highway to slow the movement of the prison van reportedly to facilitate the snatching. It could have been also averted had there been intelligence support to the prison van. Reports said, even Mymensingh police did not know of their movement from Kashimpur Jail to Mymensingh Court.  Moreover, the internal security of all prisons in the country has come under serious questioning on disclosure of the fact that the three JMB militants were planning to escape on that occasion at least from two weeks earlier. They talked regularly with their compatriots over mobile phone - often borrowed from jail police or that they were secretly holding violating the jail code and internal security arrangement. Many people wonder whether or not the snatching operation was indirectly facilitated as part of the game plan to prove that religious fanatics as al-Qaeda associates in Bangladesh have their presence in the country. The timing of the incident immediately after the disclosure of a so-called message of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiree asking the Muslims to rise in revolt against the government is highly intriguing.  To prove the linkage to al-Qaeda, some news report said Hafeez Rakib Hasan Russell was an Afghan warrior suggesting that he was part of al-Qaeda network in Bangladesh.  Meanwhile, law enforcers are yet to track down the other two absconding JMB militants who are also death row convicts. The two - Salauddin Ahmed alias Salehin and Zahidul Islam alias "Boma" Mizan - are absconding and police administration has announced a reward of Taka two lakhs to those who can inform of their whereabouts. For building a law-abiding society we cannot afford killing of persons in police custody. We are terribly disturbed to observe indiscipline in police and the government is too comfortable in depending too much on police power. We shall blame the government for the lack of professionalism in police because it is the result of police being used politically for the politics of the government. In the name of fighting false terrorism we must not help terrorism of more helpless kind.       

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