22 CHT-based party activists killed since May
Seven people, including four Chittagong Hill Tracts-based political party United Peoples’ Democratic Front-backed organisation leaders, were killed and 10 others were injured in gun attacks on them at two places in Khagrachari on Saturday.
UPDF in a statement in the evening called a half-day road blockade in Khagrachari district for Monday protesting at the murders and demanding immediate arrest and exemplary punishment of the killers.
The first gun attack took place in front the UPDF central office at Swanirbhar Bazar in Khagrachari town, adjacent to the Swanirbhar Bazar police camp and about 50 metres away from Border Guard Bangladesh sector headquarters, at about 8:30am leaving six people killed and seven others critically injured.
The second attack near Perachhara Bridge, about four kilometres away from Swanirbhar Bazar, at about 12:30pm on a procession of UPDF leaders and activists, that was marching towards Khagrachari town protesting at the earlier attack, killed one more UPDF activist and injured at least three others.
UPDF leaders blamed their rivals for the attacks and said that four of the victims were leaders and activists of UPDF-backed organisations – Pahari Chhatra Parishad and Democratic Youth Forum.
The murders took to 22 the number of leaders and activists of CHT-based regional political parties killed allegedly by rivals in three and half months since May 3.
The six people killed in the first attack on Saturday were identified as Khagrachari district Pahari Chhatra Parishad president Tapan Chakma, 25, its assistant secretary Elton Chakma, 32, and Democratic Youth Forum district vice-president Palash Chakma Barun, 32, Mahalchhari upazila health assistant Jitayan Chakma, 52, who was passing by the area during the attack and Swanirbhar area residents Rupam Chakma, 25, and textile engineer Dheraj Chakma Anupam, 35, said UPDF organiser Michael Chakma and sources in the police.
The deceased in the second attack was UPDF activist San Kumar Chakma, the police said.
Samar Bikash Chakma, 48, Sakiran Chakma, 35, Sumon Chakma, 32, Pahari Chhatra Parishad leader Sohel Chakma, 25, Dwitan Chakma, 22, Ferester Tripura, 35, and Chisi Moni Chaka, 25, were injured in the first attack while UPDF activists Urmi Chakma, 21, Minu Chakma, 33, and Sona Ranjan Chakma, 43, were injured in the second attack.
All the victims are residents of different places under Khagrachari sadar upazila.
Police officials and witnesses said that a group of 8-10 masked gunmen opened fire indiscriminately at the central office of United People’s Democratic Front and adjacent areas at about 8:30am when UPDF people were gathering there for a rally, scheduled for 10:00am, to accord reception to four people, who were abducted by ‘masked force’, which the UPDF brand as blessed by the administration, and later released.
They said that the gunmen also fired at the nearby police camp while police in the camp were merely spectators as panic gripped the area. People were seen to run for safer places while the shops became closed in the area.
The gunmen stormed into the place from western side of Swanirbhar Bazar opening fires in the air, they said.
Traffic movement in the area and on Khagrachari-Panchari road came at a halt.
Khagrachari police station officer-in-charge Shahadat Hossain Tito said that masked gunmen continued brushfire for a few minutes in the area and left the spot as law enforcers rushed the spot.
He said that six people died in the attack and seven others were injured who were rushed to hospital.
Shahadat said that the gunmen fired five gunshots at Swanirbhar Bazar police box and huge number of empty cartridges could be seen in the area.
Khagrachari General Hospital resident medical officer Nayanmay Tripura said that five of the victims were brought dead at the hospital and another one died after admission. Three of injured with grievous injuries were referred to Chittagong Medical College Hospital.
‘It was a horror. I could hear people’s cry and scream. There were several gunshots at a time. The gunshots continued for about 10 minutes but the screaming of people continued,’ said a woman who was in a nearby house.
While visiting the spot in the afternoon, spots of bloodstains could be seen here and there and shoes and slippers were seen abandoned in the area.
Additional police forces were deployed in the area and army patrol was strengthened after the incident.
Gunmen again attacked a procession of UPDF near Perachara Bridge under Sadar upazila, leaving four people – San Kumar Chakma, Urmi Chakma, Minu Chakma and Sonaranjan Chakma – injured, witnesses and police officials said.
The attack took place at around 12:30pm when a procession was proceeding towards Khagrachari town protesting at the attack on the UPDF activists.
San died as he was taken to hospital, said the Khagrachari police station officer-in-charge Shahadat.
UPDF publicity and publication secretary Niron Chakma blamed UPDF (Democratic) and PCJSS- MN Larma faction for the gun attacks.
PCJSS-MN Larma faction information and publicity secretary Sudhakar Tripura denied their involvement in the attacks.
UPDF (Democratic) president Jalia Chakma could not be reached for comments after several attempts.
On May 3, assailants shot Nannerchar upazila parishad chairman Shaktiman Chakma, also PCJSS faction vice-president, in front of his office at the upazila headquarters.
On May 4, assailants ambushed and killed UPDF (Democratic) chief Tapan Jyoti Chakma, three of his associates and their hired driver on Khagrachari-Rangamati road at Bethchari on their way to the funeral of Shaktiman.
On May 28, three UPDF members were shot dead and another was injured at Korolyachari of Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati.
On June 15, UPDF faction member Boli Chakma of Dosarpara under Langadu upazila in Rangamati was shot to death.
PCJSS faction members Suren Bikash Chakma of Milonpur under Baghaichhari upazila in Rangamati and Bijay Tripura of Payingpara village under Panchari upazila in Khagrachari were shot dead at their homes on June 17 and June 16 respectively.
On July 12, UPDF activist Gayanendu Chakma of Alutila area in Khagrachari was shot to death at Alutila, according to police.
On July 14, PCJSS-MN Larma-backed Juba Samity activist Shanti Jiban Chakma of Sarbashwapara village of Matiranga in Khagrachari was shot dead at his village home.
On July 26, PCJSS-MN Larma activist Bano Kusum Chakma was shot dead in Bedagi Chhara village under Baghaichhari upazila in Rangamati.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Politics