Bangla investigators grill ex-home secy over 2004 weapon haul

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