Three more people — two of them ‘drug peddlers’ and another ‘drug-addict’ — were killed in police custody and in reported gunfights in Tangail, Rangpur and Panchagarah early Sunday taking the death counts in the ongoing anti-drug drives to 135 in 20 days.
In the drives, initiated by Rapid Action Battalion on May 4 and by police on May 18, the number of arrests of suspected ‘drug peddlers’ and ‘abusers’ crossed 16,000, RAB and police officials said.
Of the Sunday’s victims, one each suspected drug peddler were killed in Tangail and Rangpur and a ‘drug addict’ arrested by detectives died in police custody in Panchagarah.
As the number of death in the drives continue to increase every day, youth campaigners and students in Dhaka took to the streets on Sunday protesting at ‘planned murders’ of unarmed people and ‘extrajudicial killings’.
Rights organisations too demanded an immediate end to the killing of unarmed people.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan, after attending an anti-drug campaign at a private university in the capital, told reporters that his ministry received the audio record of the last mobile phone conversations between slain Teknaf ward councillor Akramul Haque and members of his family.
‘A team led by a magistrate is investigating the audio tape,’ said the minister.
A three-time elected ward councillor of Teknaf municipality and a local Awami League leader Akramul was killed in a ‘gunfight’ with members of Rapid Action Battalion in Cox’s Bazar on May 26 night.
An unverified audio clippings provided by the victim’s wife in a press conference in Cox’s Bazar on May 31 suggested that Akramul was called by a ‘Major’ with whom he was going to Hnila and he was shot dead in cold blood, branding him to be a drug peddler.
The minister, responding to another question, said the country’s jail had now about 85,000 inmates, including about 37 per cent accused in drug-related cases.
Rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra, in a statement on Sunday, demanded an immediate end to ‘gunfight’ and formation of a judicial commission to probe all such killings.
On Sunday afternoon, police barred activists of Ganajagaran Mancha at Shahbagh in Dhaka from holding a rally and bringing out a procession against ‘indiscriminate murders’ of unarmed people without any judicial process in the name of ‘gunfights’.
Besides, Dhaka University students under the banner of ‘Students against Repression’ formed a human chain on the campus on the same demand.
New Age correspondent in Tangail, quoting RAB-12 Tangail company commander Robiul Islam, reported that suspected drug peddler Md Ruhul alais Kaila Ruhul, 28, of village Golra under Kalihati in the district was killed in a ‘gunfight’ with RAB during an anti-drug drive at village Golra about 1:30am.
New Age correspondent in Rangpur, quoting the district assistant superintendent of police Saiful Islam, reported that suspected drug peddler Rafiqul Islam Opi, 45, of Haragach municipality under Kawnia, also named in 15 cases, was found dead at Tangri Bazar of Haragach municipality after a ‘gunfight’ between two groups of ‘drug peddlers’ early Sunday.
In Panchagarah, suspected drug addict Kajol Sheikh Maju, 43, of New Market area in the district town died in police custody early Sunday after being arrested from Baniapara of the town Saturday night, United News of Bangladesh reported, quoting assistant superintendent of police Sudarshan Kumar Roy.
The police officer said that a team of detective branch of police, led by sub-inspector Rabiul Islam, arrested Maju about 10:30pm on Saturday along with hemp and later he felt chest pain before being produced before a mobile court.
However, he was taken to Panchagarh Sadar Hospital where he died around 12:30am, he said.
Zillur Rahman, a physician of emergency department of the hospital, said they were suspecting that Maju died of heart attack.
In the capital, Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested 70 suspected drug peddlers and addicts during raids in different areas of the city in 24 hours ending Sunday 6:00am, the metropolitan police officials said.
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