Four more suspected drug peddlers were killed in reported gunfights in Rajshahi, Jessore and Madaripur on Thursday taking to 129 the number of people killed in the ongoing anti-drug crackdown across the country in 17 days since May 15.
Transparency International Bangladesh on Thursday demanded judicial inquiry into the reported gunfights in the drives while the parliamentary standing committee on home ministry asked the law enforcement agencies to conduct the drives carefully so that no innocent people could be affected.
Committee member Fakhrul Imam, after a meeting of the committee in the Sangsad Bhaban, also said that five agencies had prepared separate lists of drug dealers and the drives were being conducted based on the lists.
About 15,000 suspected ‘drug peddlers’ and ‘abusers’ were arrested by the police and Rapid Action Battalion in the drives.
Assistant inspector general (media) of the police headquarters Soheli Ferdous said that the police had arrested 11,183 people for their alleged involvement in peddling or abusing drugs since May 19, the day the police began the anti-drug drive.
Rapid Action Battalion legal and media wing officials said that they had arrested 3,619 people – 566 drug peddlers and 3,053 drug addicts – since May 4, the day the battalion began the crackdown.
Different political parties and rights organisations continued to express concern over the rising number of deaths in the drives as the families of the many victims alleged that they were picked up by people identifying them as law enforcers before the reported gunfights with the law enforcers or between ‘groups of drug peddlers.’
Law enforcement agencies, however, always denied the allegations.
Transparency International Bangladesh in a statement described the law enforcers’ explanations of the ‘gunfights’ questionable and demanded judicial inquiries into all such killings.
The statement expressed fear that the citizens’ constitutional protection might be affected for government patronisation of excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies.
It said that the excessive use of force by the law enforcers might cause a risk of institutionalisation of culture of breaching law by the agencies.
‘The way the “listed ones” are being killed in “gunfights” before they are convicted through traditional judicial system is totally unconstitutional. It is being claimed that law enforcers “retaliate by firing in self-defence”, but we do not know if any legal process has been followed to ensure its truthfulness,’ TIB executive director Iftekharuzzaman said in the statement.
He said that they thought that apparently petty drug peddlers were being killed in ‘gunfights’ lessening the possibility of unearthing the fact and the big fishes and thus paving the way for the main culprits behind drugs to remain untouched.
In Rajshahi, Rapid Action Battalion-5 special company commander Major Ashraf Hossain said that two suspected drug peddlers were killed in a gunfight with the battalion at Karamja under Karanhat police station at about 11:30pm.
The identities of the victims could not be established, he said.
New Age correspondent in Jessore, quoting sub-inspector Nasirul Haque Khan of Bagharpara police station, reported that Raju Ahmed, 28, Dighalsingha under Chaugachha upazila in Jessore was killed in a reported gunfight between `two groups of drug peddlers’ at Bhatar Amtala under Bagharpara upazila at about 2:00am.
The police officer said that Raju was a suspected drug peddler and they seized one firearm, one bullet and three kilograms of hemp from the spot.
Raju’s mother Kohinoor Begum at Jessore General Hospital, however, alleged that her son was called out from a local mosque after Wednesday’s Tarabih prayers over mobile phone identifying the caller as a police officer.
‘My son was a garment worker in Chittagong and he came home two months ago. He was innocent,’ the mother claimed.
Nasirul, however, denied the allegation.
In Madaripur, suspected drug peddler Bachchu Khalifa, 45, of Khalifapara under Shibchar upazila in the district, also named in 14 cases, was killed in a ‘gunfight between two groups of drug peddlers’ at Shambhuk area under the upazila at about 2:30am, claimed Shibchar police station inspector (investigation) Md Shahjahan.
He claimed that they seized one pipe gun, three bullets, 100 Yaba tablets and six bottles of Phenesedyl from the spot.
On Thursday, Dhaka Metropolitan Police raided Namapara slum under Gendaria police station in Dhaka and arrested 28 people for their alleged involvement in drug peddling or abusing, metropolitan police officials said.
They said that they seized 300 Yaba pills, 700 small packs of heroin, three kilograms of hemp and 225 ampoules of Pethidine injection.
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