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Bangladesh 23 February 2005

Police officer arrested for suspected collusion with journalists killers

A Khulna police officer, Mofazzal Hossain, was arrested on 16 February for suspected collusion with armed Maoist militants who have carried out a number of bombings, including that at the city’s press club. Two days earlier, a police unit from the capital Dhaka surprised the officer in the company of Hasan, a known member of the armed group. He used the police officer’s gun to cover his escape but he was later arrested. As a result Mofazzal Hossain was suspended from duty, recalled to Dhaka and put under arrest.

These new arrests follow revelations by Swadhin, an armed militant who was recently arrested in Khulna, who reportedly named those responsible for bomb attacks on journalists Humayun Kabir Balu, Sheikh Belaluddin Hamed and Dip Azad.


Police officer fired for negligence following Khulna press club bombing

A police officer assigned to the Sadar police station in Khulna was fired for "negligence" on 6 February, the day after the bombing at the Khulna press club in which four journalists were wounded, two seriously.

The dismissal came the same day that journalists demonstrated in Khulna to demand the replacement of the city’s new police superintendent, Javed Patwari, and a thorough investigation into why a patrol that was supposed to be protecting the press club was withdrawn on the evening of the bombing.

Alhaj Liaquat Ali, the editor of the Dainik Purbanchal, said during the demonstration that the failure to punish those responsible for the murders of journalists Manik Saha and Humayun Kabir Balu last year in Khulna had fostered a climate that permitted the 5 February bombing.

Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed, a correspondent for the daily Sangram, and Jahidul Islam, a photographer with the daily Jugantor, are still hospitalised and in a serious condition as a result of the injuries they sustained in the bombing. Ahmed is in the intensive care unit of a military hospital in Dhaka while Islam is in a clinic in Khulna.


Four journalists injured, two seriously, in bomb attack on Khulna Press Club

Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage after four journalists were wounded, two very seriously, in a bomb attack against a press club in Khulna, western Bangladesh.

Two of the journalists are critically ill in hospital. No group has admitted responsibility for the 5 February bombing.

The worldwide press freedom organisation called on interior minister Lutfozzaman Babor to do everything possible to bring those responsible to justice and to protect journalists.

The bomb went off at 9.30pm as the journalists were leaving the building. It had been placed in a bag and left on a moped belonging to Sheikh Belaluddin Ahmed, of the daily Sangram. It detonated as he approached the machine.

Ahmed was very seriously injured and taken to Khulna hospital where his left hand and two fingers from his right hand had to be amputated. He also suffered a serious injury to his left eye and needed a major blood transfusion.

He was moved to intensive care at a Dhaka hospital the following day and put on a ventilator. Doctors described his condition as "critical".

The other three casualties were: press club chairman Sheikh Abu Hasan, of the daily Prothom Alo, photographer for the daily Jugantor, Jahidul Islam and Rafiul Islam Tutul, reporter on the daily Loksomaj published in Jessore, in the southwest. All three journalists were treated in a Khulna clinic. Jahidul Islam is still seriously ill. The other two have been discharged from the clinic.

The Khulna Press Club

The force of the explosion blew out several windows and destroyed some of the club fixtures. It took firefighters around 20 minutes to bring the blaze triggered by the bomb under control.

Police in Khulna, who suspect armed Maoists are to blame, said the bomb was probably detonated by remote control. Two suspects, Hoby Sheikh and Khokon, have been arrested for questioning.

In its letter to the interior minister, Reporters Without Borders said, "Your government is currently stepping up security for around 50 key figures, following a series of bombings. We urge you not to forget the Khulna region, where journalists are constantly the targets of extreme violence."

Since the murder, on 27 June 2004, of journalist Humayun Kabir Balu, a police patrol had been assigned to the Khulna press club. The new police superintendent, who visited the club on 29 January, promised to protect journalists there every day until 10pm. However on the evening of the bombing, not a single police officer was present.

The Daily Star reported that 250 officers had been deployed to protect the press club and the offices of local newspapers.

Khulna journalists held a protest march in reaction to the bombing on 6 February and ordered a news blackout. No local newspapers appeared on that day.

One month before the press club bombing, Dip Azad, of the national daily Jugantor in Khulna, had a narrow escape when a home-made bomb was thrown at him but failed to detonate. From Dhaka, he told Reporters Without Borders, "It is no longer possible to work in Khulna. Several journalists are considering giving up journalism under pressure from their families."

Three journalists were murdered in this region in 2004.

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