August 21 attack plot appears clearer as trial process exposes evidence

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By Anisur Rahman

DHAKA, Aug 21, 2018 (BSS) – The conspiracy behind the August 21, 2004
grenade attack visibly appeared clearer as the protracted trial process nears
completion, exposing evidence that the then regime masterminded its shocking
plot and subsequently made desperate efforts to protect the assailants.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today directly accused the then prime
minister Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman of perpetrating the barbaric
attack saying they were directly involved in the carnage.

“There is no doubt that the BNP, Khaleda Zia (former prime minister) and
her son were directly involved in the gruesome grenade attack on the Awami
League rally (on that day),” she said commemorating the 14th anniversary of
the assault that killed 24 people and wounded nearly 500.

The evidence and testimonies of key accused and crucial witnesses
including the then Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) chief,
however, unfolded gradually the plot substantiating the premier’s comments.

DGFI’s then director general now retired major general Sadik Hassan Rumi
earlier appeared as a crucial prosecution witness in the court and said
perpetrators of the attack targeting the incumbent premier were protected
under higher political authority’s directives.

“I was asked not to catch them (culprits) . . . There was no dearth of
efforts on my part to unearth the plot but I was repeatedly obstructed,” Rumi
told the trial court as the belated trial of several high-profile suspects of
the attack was underway.

Rumi insisted the ex-premier appeared annoyed and virtually rebuked him as
he wanted to talk to her on the attack issue and subsequent investigations.

“From where you gathered the ridiculous information . . . what is your
headache if Tajuddin (a key attack suspect) goes to Pakistan or anywhere
else?” Rumi recalled Khaleda Zia telling him as he tried to confirm a report
that she herself ordered his safe passage abroad.

Key accused of the case militant Harkatul Jihad (HuJI) chief Mufti Abdul
Hannan in his confessional statement gave a detailed description how the plot
was orchestrated as his outfit was entrusted with the task to kill Sheikh
Hasina and other front-ranking Awami League leaders.

His long statement depicted the direct involvement of Tarique Rahman, the
then junior home minister Lutfozzaman Babar and former deputy minister Abdus
Salam Pintu.

“Tarique Zia (Rahman) assured us of giving all kinds of cooperation . . .
then we held a series of secret meetings at different places including
Mohammadpur to kill Sheikh Hasina and Awami League leaders,” Hannan said in
his confessional statement before a magistrate.

Hannan, who is by now hanged after trial for attempt on former British
High Commissioner Anwar Chowdhury’s life, said the plotters subsequently
learnt that Awami League would stage an anti-terrorism rally on August 21,
2004.

“We took a plan to stage an attack on Sheikh Hasina and Awami League
leaders there and decided to meet Tarique Zia again to execute the plan,” he
said.

Sheikh Hasina in her today’s address referred to another apparently new
point recalling that Awami League volunteers were generally engaged in
maintaining security of any such party rally in those days and they used
perform it from nearby buildings rooftops.

“But on that day they (the volunteers) were not allowed to get on the
rooftops of the buildings as those were closed. So it’s clear that who were
involved in the attack,” she said.

According to witnesses and subsequent investigations police actions
appeared mysterious immediately after the attack when they started lobbing
tear gas and using batons on the crowds instead of extending hands for the
victims.

“The aim of this was to allow attackers to flee without any hindrance,”
Sheikh Hasina said.

Three former police chiefs, some former military officials who were posted
in DGFI at that time are among others to face trial in person or in absentia
alongside the HuJI operatives.

Tarique Rahman, now in London, and 17 others are being tried in absentia as
they “failed” to appear and they were earlier declared “absconding” to evade
justice.

Officials said out of 52 accused, 18 including Tarique Rahman and Zia’s
then political assistant Haris Chowdhury, are on the run, eight , including
three ex-IGPs, are on bail and the rest , including Babar , are in jail.

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