B`deshi probe into 2004 weapons smuggling case gets extension
Last Updated: Sunday, July 25, 2010, 20:42
Dhaka: A Bangladeshi court on Sunday granted extension for the ninth time in a key probe into the 2004 abortive smuggling of weapons, believed to be meant for the ULFA militants in Assam.

Metropolitan Session Judge Enamul Haque Bhuiyan extended till September 26 the probe into the country?s 2004 biggest ever weapon haul, believed to be meant for the banned separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), court officials said.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials said the extra time was needed to quiz more people, including several navy officers, a former secretary and a former Director General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) in view of some "astounding findings" during the probe.

The police seized the consignment of 10 truckloads of weapons and ammunition, which included over 27,000 grenades, 150 rocket launchers, over 11 lakh ammunitions and 1,100 sub machine guns, from the state-owned Chittagong Urea Fertiliser Company Ltd (CUFL) jetty in Chittagong on the night of April 1 2004, widely believed for the Indian insurgent group ULFA.

The extension for the probe came days after the state-run BSS news agency reported that they CID was set to indict a detained controversial former interior minister Lutfuzzaman Babar of main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) as a major accused in the arms haul.

"We have found crucial evidence against several high-profile people during the process of extended investigations... we have also found clues to his (Babar's) involvement in the weapon haul," a senior police officer familiar with the probe told BSS last week.

He said several high-profile suspects, including former Home Secretary Omar Faruque, accused the interior minister. The interior minister was already in jail in connection with several other criminal and graft charges.

The interim government in 2008 ordered the reinvestigation into the case amid allegations that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of the BNP-led government to suppress facts to weaken the case.

CID, which was tasked to reinvestigate the case, subsequently obtained extension.

The reinvestigation yielded the arrest of several high-profile intelligence officials, including two former generals, who had headed the apex National Security Intelligence (NSI). It was found that the weapons were manufactured at China North Industries Corporation or Norinco.

Bangladeshi national Hafizur Rahman, who was charged with carrying the weapons meant for the banned militant group, named several stalwarts in the earlier BNP-led government alongside administrative and intelligence officials.

"We have so far arrested nearly a dozen people including ex-major general Rezzakul Haidar Chowdhury and ex-brigadier general Abdur Rahim... we are now looking for (absconding) ULFA leader Paresh Barua," Muniruzzaman Chowdhury, Senior Assistant Superintendent of CID said.

According to officials, Barua monitored the abortive smuggling process in connivance with the influential people in Bangladesh.


First Published: Sunday, July 25, 2010, 20:42

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