Chakoria ‘Crossfire’ Victims: Expatriate killed ‘for money’

The Daily Star  August 18, 2020

Alleges family; mistaken identity feared to have led to killing of another one

The eldest son of a Bangladeshi expatriate in Oman, Md Jafar used to run a human haulier to support his family in Chattogram’s Patiya.

While his fight against poverty continued, he got a chance to make it to the Arab country and change his fate, which he did. Toiling more than nine years abroad, he finally managed to make his family solvent.

But little did Jafar know what laid ahead.

In the early hours of July 31, just a day before Eid-ul-Azha, the 37-year-old was killed in a “gunfight” with police in Cox’s Bazar’s Chakaria area. Locals insist he was innocent but according to the police version, he was a yaba peddler.

Two other persons — Md Hasan, 37, of Chattogram’s Patiya municipality area and Jahir Ahmed, 45, of Shantinagar area of Chakaria — were also killed in the same “crossfire”, which has raised some doubts and questions on police’s role in the incident.

On Sunday, they filed a case with the judicial magistrate’s court in Patiya accusing Chakaria police station’s Officer-in-Charge Habibur Rahman and Inspector Aminul Islam, also in-charge of Harbang police outpost in Cox’s Bazar, of the murder. Nine people, including a local union parishad member, were named as witnesses in the case.

Taking the case into cognisance, the court ordered the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to investigate the incident and submit a report to it.

Jafar’s father Abdul Aziz told The Daily Star, “My son had been living in Oman for the last nine years. He used to come home in Patiya’s Kachuai union every year to spend some time with us. He was about to leave but couldn’t as international flights remain suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I myself worked in Oman for 18 years but could not change the fate of my family. My son was different, he drew a handsome salary. With money sent by him, we bought our house and many other properties.”

Aziz said two men in police uniform along with several others in plainclothes appeared at their home around 6:00am on July 29 — two days before the alleged shootout. As Jafar opened the door, they introduced themselves as members of Patiya police station, said the father.

“They put my son in handcuffs. At one point, they ransacked his room and took away valuables from his almirah,” Aziz said, adding that the policemen then pick Jafar up in their van and headed towards Cox’s Bazar.

Aziz alleged police later called them multiple times over the phone and demanded Tk 50 lakh for his son’s release. They also threatened to kill him in “crossfire” if they failed to pay the money.

“On July 31, local union parishad member Anwar Hossain called us over phone and said Jafar was killed in a gunfight with police in Cox’s Bazar. His body was kept at the morgue of Cox’s Bazar Medical College,” he said.

Contacted, Anwar Hossain, member of Ward-4 under Number 16 Kachuai union, said, “I was informed about the shootout by Patiya police. They said Jafar’s family members could take the body from the morgue.”

He also said Jafar had married only one and a half years ago and that he was very polite. “As far as I know, he had no criminal records with any police station.”

VICTIM OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY?

Hasan, another victim of the July 31 “crossfire”, was also allegedly picked up from his locality. According to local sources, he was a poor rickshaw puller, who used to live in Paikpara area, which falls in Ward-6 of Patiya municipality.

Safiul Alam, councillor of the ward, said, “Hasan was toiling day and night to run his family. As far as I know, he had no criminal record.

“I was informed by Patiya police that Hasan was killed in a shootout with police. Later, I informed his family about it,” he said.

The councillor, however, said there is another Hasan in the municipality area who is known to be a yaba trader. “It might have been a case of mistaken identity.”

Asked whether Jafar or Hasan had any criminal records with Patiya police station, OC Borhan Uddin of the police station yesterday said, “I can’t make any comment without checking the documents. I will tell you later.”

THE ‘GUNFIGHT’

After the “gunfight”, Chakaria police claimed that they had arrested two people with yaba pills around 1:00am on July 31. During interrogation, the arrestees said yaba dealers were distributing the tablets in Boitali area.

Based on the information, Inspector Aminul Islam said police raided the area around 2:30am. But sensing their presence, the criminals opened fire on them, forcing the law enforcers to retaliate, which retriggered a “gunfight”.

Aminul said they found bullet-hit bodies of Jafar, Hasan and Jahir lying at the spot after the “gun-battle” and that the three were members of a yaba smuggling gang. He said Jahir stood accused in three narcotics cases.

Police also claimed to have recovered 44,000 yaba tablets, two firearms, and seven cartridges from the spot.

Four police personnel — Officer-in-Charge of Chakaria police station Habibur Rahman, Aminul, and constables Sajjad and Sabuj — were also injured, claimed the inspector.

Later, Aminul filed a First Information Report with the police station over the incident and accused the three of assaulting police and obstructing them from discharging their duties, as well as murder.

This correspondent tried to contacted Aminul and Habibur repeatedly for comment on the matter, but they did not answer.

In the meantime, Jafar’s father’s fight for justice continues. He vowed to bring down those who killed his loving son.

“My son was innocent. He had enmity with no one. They killed him for money. I want justice,” he sobbed.

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