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Bangla investigators grill ex-home secy over 2004 weapon haul

Last Updated: Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 12:17

Dhaka: Bangladeshi investigators have grilled
a former top Home Ministry bureaucrat as part of a fresh probe
into the country`s biggest weapon haul in 2004 when 10
truckloads of arms believed to be destined to ULFA hideouts in
north-eastern India were seized, officials said on Sunday.

"Former home secretary Omar Faruque was quizzed for
nearly 8 hours until yesterday evening, we may call him for
further questioning along with several other senior former
officers," a senior Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
official said.

He said that Faruque was questioned as he was the head of
a five-member high-power committee formed to investigate the
matter. At least two other of its members -- former chiefs of
the country`s top intelligence agencies who are under
detention -- were suspected to be involved in the haul.

`The Prothom Alo` newspaper quoting another official
familiar with the investigation reported that the committee
apparently completed its responsibility, giving only a
five-page "superficial" report "visibly to help the
masterminds" of the haul to evade justice.

It said Faruque told investigators that the committee
"could work freely but not properly" due to "time constraint"
as they were given only two-week time excluding the holidays.

The report said the committee named five people including
owner of the boats used for carrying the arms, a porter leader
and owner of a porter contracting firm who had little idea
about the main plan of the smuggling.

Faruque was interrogated as CID, which was tasked with
re-investigating the case, obtained an extended 3-month time
from a court in port city of Chittagong to probe the matter.

The re-investigation yielded arrest of several top
intelligence officials, including two Army Generals who
earlier headed the apex National Security Intelligence (NSI).

The past military-backed interim government last year
ordered the re-investigation amid allegations that there was a
deliberate attempt on the part of the then BNP regime to
suppress facts to weaken the case.

The consignment of 10 truckloads of weapons believed to
be destined to ULFA hideouts in north-eastern India was seized
in April 2004 despite suspected efforts of influential
quarters for its safe passage. The case was shelved for years
after the apparently "accidental" seizure.

An earlier report quoting CID officials said detained
ex-NSI chief brig gen (Retd) Abdur Rahim and another official
of the intelligence agency told interrogators and the court
that Dubai-based ARY business group and Pakistan`s ISI were
involved in the abortive weapon smuggling, which was
reportedly being overseen by ULFA leader Paresh Barua.

Rahim and his successor in NSI Maj Gen (Retd) Rezzakul
Haider Chowdhury and three other officials of the intelligence
agency were arrested and quizzed in custody during past
several months. Officials said they also found clues of
involvement of at least one BNP politician in the haul.

The seized weapons included over 27,000 grenades, 150
rocket launchers, over 11 lakh ammunitions and 1,100 sub-
machine guns.

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 12:17
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