Dhaka: A former chief of Bangladesh military intelligence has hinted ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia's involvement in a grenade attack on her archrival and incumbent premier Sheikh Hasina that left 24 people dead in 2004.
"I understood the (then) Prime Minister (Zia) knew everything beforehand. So left her office not lingering the conversation," former director general of Directorate of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) Sadik Hassan Rumi told a court here as a witness in a pre-trial statement.
At least 24 people, including then President Zillur Rahman's wife senior politician Ivy Rahman, were killed in the blasts at Bangabandhu Avenue and some 200 others were injured on August 21, 2004.
Hasina, then the opposition chief, is believed to have been the prime target of the assailants, but survived with permanent hearing impairment.
Rumi alleged that he was denied permission to investigate the attack case, saying Zia appeared annoyed and virtually rebuked him as he wanted to talk to her on the issue and subsequent investigations.
"From where you gathered the ridiculous information... what is your headache if Tajuddin (a key attack plotter) goes to Pakistan or anywhere else?" he recalled an annoying Zia as telling him as he tried to confirm a report that the premier herself ordered safe passage abroad of one of the key plotters, Maulana Tajuddin.
Rumi's pre-trial testimony before a magistrate came as the trial of the gruesome attack was underway with the court indicting a number of high-profile suspects including Zia's "fugitive" elder son and Bangladesh nationalist Party vice president Tarique Rahman as a mastermind.
Under the court order, Rahman and 19 others are being tried in absentia as they "failed" to appear before court and they were earlier declared "absconding".
Two junior ministers including the then state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar, three former police chiefs, several former military officials who were posted in DGFI at that time and several leaders of outlawed Harkatul Jihad-al- Islami (HuJI) including its detained chief Mufti Abdul Hannan are among others to face the trial in person or in absentia.
Rumi's testimony carried by a weekly came as Hasina in a statement on the eve of the anniversary said: "the then ruling party orchestrated and carried out the attack to eliminate the (then) opposition (Awami League)".
"They (BNP) destroyed evidences... But truth can never be suppressed, today the investigations revealed that that many high-ups of the BNP-Jamaat alliance government were directly involved with the attack," Hasina said.
Flanked by senior colleagues in the cabinet and party Hasina visited the attack scene where she placed wreaths at a makeshift memorial and prayed for the dead.
First Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 21:03