Thursday, July 23, 2009

Superstitions haunt many when others watch solar eclipse

These Photots are taken from Panchagarh town

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Decades after landing on the moon by man, solar eclipse still remains a 'mystery' shrouded in superstitions and fear for multitudes of villagers in the northern areas.

While thousands of curious people including science enthusiasts and nature lovers busied themselves availing the rare occasion of full eclipse at Panchagarh town and other places of the northern district, many others remained inside their houses, maintaining strict rituals for 'protection from evils'.

Women have to remain indoors, refrain from doing any household jobs and eating or drinking during the entirety of the eclipse, said several villagers in Shalbahan, 30 kilometres from Panchagarh.

"During the eclipse a pregnant woman is virtually shielded by their relatives to protect her and the unborn baby from possible harm by some unknown power. This has been practised by my grandmother and other members of the family," said Jharna Begum, a housewife in Shalbahan.

"Pregnant women of our village were asked to stay indoors to prevent birth defects of their babies," said Shariful Islam, a farmer in Boda upazila.

"My mother asked me not to eat or drink anything for some hours around the eclipse," said Raju, who came to Panchagarh from Birampur in Dinajpur.

As darkness gripped the area with the sun disappearing behind a round black curtain under the shadow of the moon, hundreds of people waiting at the Zilla Stadium started pointing to the eastern sky.

Despite hindrance by the clouds, a large number of people watched the eclipse.

Several science enthusiasts used models of the sun, the moon and the earth to explain solar eclipse to interested people.

Sounds of prayer were heard as thousands of people gathered in the Zilla Stadium and many other places of the town.

The full eclipse starting from 7:56am lasted for three minutes and 58 seconds.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

JMB Patron Case: Aminul denied bail

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Rajshahi court yesterday rejected bail prayer of former BNP minister Aminul Haque in connection with a case for abetting and patronising outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

M Mohsin Ali, father of JMB atrocity victim Monwar Hossain Babu of Chalk Sarkutia, filed the case after his son was killed during the operation by JMB's executed leader Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai in Bagmara in 2004.

Judge ABM Mahmudul Haque of the Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate, Rajshahi, however, granted Aminul bail in the case for misappropriation of corrugated iron sheets from the government relief funds.

Aminul, a key patron of Islamist militant outfit JMB in Rajshahi region in 2004-2005, was hauled before the court during hearing of his bail prayers.

He surrendered on July 7 after staying two and a half years as a fugitive abroad and applying to the government for withdrawing all the 13 cases against him.

In the case filed by Mohsin, some 58 people were accused, but later eight including BNP Organising Secretary Mizanur Rahman Minu were dropped from the charges.

With the killing of Babu on April 1, 2004, Bangla Bhai along with his gangs began their so-called state-sponsored vigilante operations.

Aminul purposely patronised JMB militants abusing the police and administration during the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance rule. He was eventually handed down 31 years and six months of imprisonment in Rajshahi in 2007 in this regard.



Sunday, July 19, 2009

Extremism blooms on backing in Rajshahi

Sunday, July 19, 2009
The four top leaders of the new JMB splinter Islam O Muslim claim they along with the mainline outfit have "supporters and well-wishers" in the administration in three districts in Rajshahi Division.

Senior police officials who interrogated the four till Friday say the militants have patrons in the administration from top to bottom levels.

The militants used to get different types of support, especially in legal matters, in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon where they already have a stronghold, the officials add.

"We are looking into the matter since the militants revealed the information," said Nazrul Islam, superintendent of police of Chapainawabganj.

The police are now looking for evidence which would substantiate the claims of the militants, the district police boss added.

The law enforcers handed over Selim alias Saifullah, military commander of the JMB offshoot, to the court on Friday on completion of five-day and three-day remand by Bholahat and Shibganj police in two cases.

Other militant leaders who were taken on remand and interrogated face-to-face with Selim are former JMB Rajshahi regional commander Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat, former JMB military commander Abdul Momin and Abdur Rakib alias Suman.

During the face-to-face interrogation held in Chapainawabganj, the four gave important information and said they have yet to fix single leadership as their new offshoot was formed in April.

They claim Selim alias Saifullah is the main organiser but they four altogether equally shared the leadership so far.

Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat was primarily considered for organisational activities, while Selim was looking after operational affairs.

However, a special intelligence team to combat militancy informed that Islam O Muslim has 10 commanders.

The militant leaders held three meetings to decide about the launch of the new offshoot. First they held a meeting in Raghunathpur in Nachole and then in Ranihati and Kansat in Shibganj, Chapainawabganj.

As the four sat in a meeting in Kansat for the last time in April, they decided to call the new organisation Islam O Muslim.

Selim brought in arms from India and they decided to use small weaponry for self-defence as the mainstream had threatened to kill them for "betrayal".

The militants claim they were on the JMB hit list as some of them betrayed the mainstream by misappropriating money. Selim took away around Tk 1.5 lakh from the JMB fund, they add.

The militant leaders had another aim of reorganising the inactive JMB leaders in the region and collecting small weaponry for their cadres. They collected some 16 small firearms and the police have recovered 14 of them.

Senior police officials term the arrest of the four a great relief as the law-enforcement agencies including the Rapid Action Battalion held them at very primary level.

The police last month arrested four militants in Chapainawabganj followed by the arrest of another three militants including Shahadat.

Later, Rab and BDR jointly arrested Selim in early this month.


Streets urchins in Rajshahi being used to abduct children

Saturday, July 18, 2009
Street urchins are now being used to abduct children in Rajshahi city, revealed the police yesterday.

The fact came to light after locals rescued on Thursday night two children at Rajshahi Railway Station and caught a street urchin assigned by a gang of child traffickers to abduct kids.

They handed over street urchin Rabbi, 12, who sells children to human traffickers in Dhaka for Tk 200 each, to the police.

Rescued Shamsher, 8, and Quamrul Hasan, 10, told the police that Rabbi was taking them to the capital to sell them to a woman for Tk 200 each.

The two kids are now kept under safe custody of Association for Community Development, a Rajshahi-based non-governmental organisation.

Police said Rabbi admitted that he sold another boy Mohibul, 8, missing for two and a half months, to a woman in the capital for Tk 200.

A police team took Rabbi to Dhaka yesterday to rescue Muhibul and arrest the gang members.


Friday, July 10, 2009

New JMB Offshoot: Shahadat, Selim call each other chief

Friday, July 10, 2009

The top leaders of banned JMB's splinter Islam O Muslim Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat and Selim alias Saifullah designated each other as the chief of the offshoot organisation during remand, police said yesterday.

Police said Shahadat, Selim and two others--Sajedur Rahman alias Hanif and Jalal Uddin--had already given important information but the police now need to put them face to face for interrogation.

M Abdul Kuddus Chowdhury, additional superintendent of police in Rajshahi, said, "A face to face interrogation has now become crucial as Shahadat and Selim are pointing at each other as the chief of the new group."

At the end of a five-day remand yesterday, Shahadat, Sajedur and Jalal were produced before the third court of judicial magistrate in Rajshahi in the afternoon. Police sought a seven-day fresh remand against them.

The court of Asaf-ud-Doula granted only three day's fresh remand, said M Hedayetul Islam, acting court inspector of Rajshahi. Arrested on June 30, they were taken on a five-day remand on July 4 by the Special Branch of police.

Meanwhile, the Chapainawabganj police placed Selim before a court seeking a seven-day remand after Rab-5 handed him over to police on Wednesday.

The court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Basudev Roy sent Selim to jail custody deciding to hear on the remand prayer by Sunday, said police.

However, police had yesterday filed three cases--two for possessing illegal arms and one for attacking on the law enforcers hindering government task--against Selim with the Chapainawabganj Sadar Police Station.

Rab-5 and police seized a 9mm pistol, seven local one-shot guns and 20 bullets from Shahadat and Selim's possession.

Quoting Shahadat police said, Selim floated the new offshoot Islam O Muslim in a bid to save himself from JMB's wrath.

According to Shahadat, Selim as a regional JMB commander of Rajshahi used to handle JMB fund for collecting arms and ammunition. He swindled the JMB mainstream of Tk 1.5 lakh and fled to India several months ago.

One and a half months ago, some 10 to 15 militants, including Shahadat and Selim held meetings twice at Gomostapur in Chapainwabganj to discuss the new offshoot, said the police.

But they were yet to form a full-fledged committee, said the police quoting Shahadat.

In the meetings, they discussed fighting tactics, using small weapons instead of bombs and grenades, and their main goal--reorganising inactive JMB members.

Shahadat told police that Selim is the entrepreneur and chief of Islam O Muslim, not him.

Shahadat, during his remand, had also mentioned seven forearms that were recovered from Selim's possession.

Our Jhenidah correspondent adds: Police yesterday arrested a suspected member of banned Islamist militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) from the town following an arrest warrant.

Officer-in-Charge of Kotchandpur Police Station arrested Abdul Matin, 32, from his drug shop at Arabpur around 5:00pm.

Police said a Chapainawabganj court issued the arrest warrant against Matin after his name was disclosed by five JMB men accused in a case filed on October 25 last year.

Matin, son of Taib Ali, hails from Laxmipur village under Kotchandpur upazila.

4 JMB men held, 6 firearms seized

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Rab personnel yesterday recovered six firearms and 10 bullets from Chapainawabganj and arrested four JMB militants, including two ehsars (fulltime members), in three districts.

Based on arrested Selim alias Saifullah's statement, a team of Rapid Action Battalion (Rab)-5 raided Selim's father-in-law's house around 3:00am yesterday.

Director of Rab-5 Lt Col Israt Hossain said the team recovered six local one-shot guns and ammunition digging around Selim's father-in-law Quamruzzaman's house. None was arrested during the operation, he added.

Selim, chief military commander of JMB offshoot Islam O Muslim, was taken to Rajshahi Rab headquarters and was interrogated overnight after his arrest on Tuesday. They recovered a foreign 9mm pistol, nine bullets and two empty magazines from his possession.

Meanwhile, Rab arrested another active member of JMB Delwar Hossain, 22, at his house in Jagadishpur under Gaibandha district following confessional statement of Selim. Delwar is an accused in two murder cases.

Another Rab-5 team arrested JMB militant Ishaq Pramanik, 48, of Konopara village in Bagmara. Ishaq, an associate of executed JMB leader Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai, is an accused in the Golam Rabbani Mukul murder case.

Bangla Bhai and his men kidnapped Mukul from his house at Bagmara and tortured him hanging upside down from a tree. Mukul later succumbed to his injuries at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.

In another incident, Rab-6 arrested two JMB eshars in front of the City College under Khulna sadar Tuesday night.

The arrestees were identified as Abu Musa alias Shibli alias Ali Ahmed, 40, and Abdus Salam, 46, of west Tootpara.

Police quoted the arrestees as saying that they joined the banned outfit JMB in 2003. Sub-inspector Anwar Hossain of Khulna Sadar Police Station said Musa and Salam were placed on a three-day remand for interrogation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Govt moves to reopen two silk factories under PPP

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The government has taken initiatives to reopen two silk factories -- one in Rajshahi and the other in Thakurgaon under public-private partnership (PPP) by January next.

The Tk27 crore loss-burdened Rajshahi Silk Factory was shut down in 2002, forcing 359 employees out of job. At that time, Thakurgaon Silk Factory was also closed.

As per the prime minister's directive to the Ministry of Jute and Textile ministry to take immediate steps to reopen the factories, a high profile parliamentary body visited Rajshahi on Friday and Thakurgaon on Sunday to examine the feasibility of the move.

The three-member team completed an inventory of the factory machineries and exchanged views with experts, businessmen, growers and officials of the Bangladesh Sericulture Board.

"Local businessmen showed interest in running the factories under PPP," Kazi Abdul Wadud Dara, the committee chief and a lawmaker from Rajshahi-5 constituency, told The Daily Star.

"We are to submit our report to the standing committee in a few days", he added.

Other members of the committee are M Shafikul Islam from Sirajganj-4 and Molla Jamal Uddin from Khulna-4 constituencies.

Dara said, "If the factories are reopened, it would help meet the domestic demand for silk and save huge foreign currencies that we spend on imports every year."

At present the country produces only 50 tonnes of silk yarn a year against the demand for 300 tonnees. The rest 250 tonnes are now imported, according to local silk traders.

Rajshahi City Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton said, "If the factories are reintroduced, hundreds of people will be employed."

He blamed the previous governments' wrong policies for the present state of the silk sector, a heritage that made Rajshahi familiar worldwide.

There are also proposals for reopening the factories on 'no work no payment' basis initially, spending from all the BSB's Tk 40 lakh fund, sources in the sericulture board said.

A BSB experts' team, however, anticipated in 2008 a loss of Tk 42 lakh annually if those are re-introduced.

Aminul sent to jail on surrender

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Barrister Aminul Haque, one of the powerful ministers of the four-party government, was finally sent to jail yesterday in connection with a graft case in which he was earlier jailed for 10 years in absentia.

Aminul, a key patron of banned Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) in Rajshahi region during 2004-2005, was also sentenced to 31 years and six months' rigorous imprisonment for aiding and abetting militants.

Judge Tanjina Ismail of the Special Judge-6 passed the order sending Aminul to jail after he along with his lawyers appeared before the court to seek bail.

The defence submitted three petitions -- one for surrender to send him in jail, another for giving him first-class division in jail and the other for allowing him to go to jail on an ambulance.

The prosecution did not oppose the petition for allowing the fugitive convict Aminul to go to jail on ambulance.

After hearing both sides, the judge ordered to send Aminul to jail directing the jail authorities to give him first-class division and provide him proper treatment as per the Jail Code.

On May 20 last year, the same court sentenced Aminul to 10 years' imprisonment on charges of amassing illegal wealth and concealing information in his wealth statement submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

ACC Deputy Director Syed Ahmed filed the case against the former post and telecommunications minister with Ramna Police Station on December 12, 2007.

In the case statement, the complainant said Aminul showed less value of two houses in Dhaka and Rajshahi he built as a minister. In his wealth statement to ACC, Aminul said he had spent Tk 54 lakh for the construction.

But ACC investigation found that the expenditure was Tk 1.08 crore, of which Tk 66 lakh was illegally earned.

Aminul surrendered to the court after staying two and a half years as a fugitive abroad and applying to the government for withdrawing all the 13 cases against him, reports our Staff Correspondent in Rajshahi.

He purposely patronised JMB militants abusing the police and administration during the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance government. He was eventually handed down 31 years and six months of imprisonment in Rajshahi in 2007 in this regard.

A US-based news service 'Frontline World' in May last reported Aminul's role in the globally focused Siemens bribery scandal. It said Aminul was patronising JMB when he was receiving bribes from the German electronics giant Siemens.

The report prompted incumbent Post and Telecommunications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Razu to comment that the government would initiate a probe whether the bribe money was used to fund JMB.

Aminul, former lawmaker from Rjshahi-1 constituency, as well as Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu, former deputy minister for land and lawmaker from Natore-2, patronised JMB in the region.

Dulu and Aminul also sat with Rajshahi Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, fellow MPs Nadim Mostafa of Rajshahi-4 and Alamgir Kabir of Naogaon-6 do discuss JMB issues.

The militant patrons forced the police, administration and even personal staffs to support the executed JMB leader Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai by sending him public and private vehicles.

Police were asked by the JMB patrons to guard and assist militant operations of rampant killing and torture of people, specially their political rivals.

The militant patrons personally controlled police officials including the superintendents of police in Rajshahi, Naogaon and Natore for their political and personal interest and prevented law enforcers from taking action against militants.

Even former prime minister Khaleda Zia's son Tarique Rahman, the then state minister for home Lutfozzaman Babar and several home ministry officials left the responsibility of the region's law and order on Aminul's whim.

A case is now under trial for the killing of Monwar Hossain Babu of Bagmara in which Aminul is an accused. After the killing on April 1, 2004, Bangla Bhai began his so-called vigilante operations in the region.

JMB offshoot leader Selim arrested

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A joint team of Rab and BDR yesterday arrested Selim alias Saifullah, second-in-command and military affairs commander of JMB's new offshoot Islam O Muslim, at Belpara in Chapainawabganj.

Selim was arrested after an exchange of gunshots with the forces and he sustained a bullet wound in his leg, said Rab sources. They also recovered a pistol, nine bullets, three bullet shells and two empty magazines from the scene and his possession.

Immediately after the arrest of Islam O Muslim chief Abdur Rahman alias Shahadat, Selim fled to India. An intelligence agency finding out that he was back in Bangladesh informed Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) that he was hiding at his father-in-law's in Belpara, Shibganj.

Rab and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) team surrounded the house of Selim's in-laws around 1:00pm. Selim fired three shots at the team in a bid to avoid arrest and the team retaliated with five shots.

In a press conference last night, Director of Rab-5 Lt Col Israt Hossain said, "Selim, expert in light weaponry, used to collect arms for JMB."

He said Rab tracked Selim down based on Boma Mizan's confessional statement.

Arrested Islam O Muslim chief Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat and two of his associates also confirmed Selim's position in the new offshoot, said Lt Col Israt.

While describing the arrest, Rab officials said Selim used to go to India frequently. He used to provide Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj JMB and its new offshoot with arms.

After the execution of JMB top leaders Shaekh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai, JMB leaders were divided over ideological, economical and different other issues.

The Rajshahi Rab chief said, "The divided leaders later formed new outfits and were engaged in recruiting fresh members across the country."

Shahadat and Selim were trying to reorganise the inactive JMB members across the country under the new banner of Islam O Muslim, sources said.

Meanwhile, police yesterday arrested Nazmul Haque Tuhin, a convicted JMB member as he came out of Rajshahi Central Jail on a High Court bail.

Tuhin, 34, of Harail in Joypurhat Sadar, was sent to jail after he surrendered before a court on October 12, 2005. He was later convicted in a case filed in connection with the August 17, 2005 serial blasts and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment by a Rajshahi court.

Talking to the press, Tuhin protested his innocence and said he was framed by a businessman who had strong ties with some rogue policemen.

JMB Offshoot: Captured cadres taken to Rajshahi for remand

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Law enforcers yesterday transferred three organisers of "Islam and Muslim", an offshoot of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), to Rajshahi from Dhaka and produced them before a court seeking a seven-day remand for each.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate's Court of Rajshahi sent the three to jail and set tomorrow for holding hearing on the remand prayers after they were implicated in a case filed under the Arms Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2009.

The three are: chief of the outfit Abdur Rahim alias Shahadat of Gomastapur in Chapainawabganj, regional commander Sajedur Rahman alias Hanif of Jhikra of Bagmara upazila in Rajshahi and Jalaluddin of Naogaon.

A Special Branch of Police team from Dhaka had arrested Jalaluddin in Rajshahi and seized a single-shot gun from his possession. The other two were arrested in Gazipur.

They were taken to Dhaka for primary interrogation, police said.

Police implicated them in the case for their involvement in reorganising militants of the banned Islamist outfit JMB and possessing firearms, said Harun-ur-Rashid, officer-in-charge of Bagmara Police Station.

Meanwhile, police arrested another JMB cadre Anwar Hossain from Raninagar upazila in Naogaon yesterday.

They also started confiscating properties of 10 JMB militants in Bagmara. The Third Court of Judicial Magistrate in Rajshahi on June 21 ordered the attachment of their properties as they remain on the run ignoring the court's repeated notices upon them to appear before it.

Ishaq Ali, Ismail of Konopara, Yaad Ali, Akkas Ali of Senopara, Uzzal Hossain of Bajegoalkandi, Mamun Muhuri of Palashi, Sirajul Islam of Taherpur, Manik of Jhikra Sardarpara and Jahangir Alam of Koyrabari are among the 10.