BGB-VILLAGERS CLASH: Soldier, four villagers killed in Khagrachari

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News Desk

At least five persons, including a member of the Border Guard Bangladesh, were shot dead and a few others injured after a BGB team opened fire on villagers in Matiranga upazila of Khagrachari district in the Chittagong Hill Tracts on 3rd March (Tuesday) during an altercation over the seizure of tree logs.

Of the five killed, BGB headquarters officials named their soldier Shaon while local people identified the four others as Musa Miah, his sons Ahammad Ali and Ali Akbar, Ahammad’s father-in-law Mafiz Miah of Gazinagar under Matiranga upazila.

The BGB headquarters in a press statement titled ‘unwanted incident created during smuggling of wood log’, issued at 7:00pm, confirmed the deaths of five, including their member Shaon.

In the statement, signed by BGB public relations officer M Shariful Islam, the border force said that local ‘civilians’ cordoned a BGB team when they were trying to prevent wood smuggling some 100 yards south of Gazinagar Bazar at about 11:45pm.

According to the statement, a commotion ensued between the patrol team and ‘civilians’ when the BGB fired one blank shot.

Then a scuffle started between the two sides, some ‘civilians’ snatched away BGB men’s weapons and fired indiscriminately, said the statement.

The bullets hit BGB sepoy Shaon and five others causing the deaths of five.

The statement read that inquiry teams were formed and action would be taken after the investigation.

Asked, the BGB headquarters did not explain why their team went about 20 kilometres away from the border area and why they were trying to seize the tree logs which were not from any reserve forest.

Guimara region commander Brigadier General Muhammad Shariar Zaman, among others, visited the spot after the incident and said that the incident was extremely disappointing.

‘We are all Bangladeshis and we never expected that there would be firing,’ he said, ‘We will take steps as required.’

Khagrachari deputy commissioner Pratap Chandra  Biswas, however, did not come to any conclusion over how the shooting took place.

Let the inquiries and post mortems be carried out first, he said.

He said that law enforcement personnel and army teams were continuing their patrol in the area.

The DC formed a three-member committee, headed by additional district magistrate Khandker Muhammad Rizaul Karim, to carry out an inquiry into the killings.

Rizaul Karim said that they were yet to confirm whether the BGB team opened fires on the villagers after informing any of the executive magistrates in the district.

‘We will examine how the shooting took place,’ said Rizaul.

Dulu Mia, one of the witnesses to the shooting, told New Age that BGB commander Ishaque, along with his team, was trying to seize four jackfruit tree logs from Amir Hamza, triggering an altercation near Gazinagar Bazar.

Dulu said that they came to know that Amir Hamza cut his trees on instruction from the local power supply authorities.

The BGB team wanted to take way the logs in a pickup van, but there was a commotion as villagers tried to resist the team, he affirmed.

Ahammad Ali was filming the scene with his mobile phone but BGB members took away it and got into a scuffle.

At one stage of the scuffle, soldier Shaon and villager Ali Akbar fell on the ground, said Dulu Mia, adding, ‘Ishaque Sir then opened fire targeting us, killing their member and others. We ran away.’

Ruling Awami League’s Matiranga unit organising secretary Saiful Islam Babu said that it was not clear to them why the BGB members went there, much away from the border, and tried to seize the logs which were not even cut from the reserve forest.

‘In the past, when they came to know about any trees being cut, they came and took them away. This time people resisted as these were from our own jackfruit trees,’ said Saiful, also a former councillor of the Matiranga municipality.

He demanded justice for the deaths of the innocent villagers.

Asked, Matiranga police station officer-in-charge Shamsuddin Bhuiyan could not explain why the BGB members went on the raid quite far from the border.

Home ministry officials said that the BGB had the mandate of carrying out anti-smuggling operations within up to eight kilometres from the international boundary.

Shamsuddin said that till about 9:00pm none were arrested and no case was filed over the killings.

The home ministry in a meeting with top BGB officials last year asked not to disturb people beyond their jurisdiction.

The Gazinagar shootings were the second incident after February 12, 2019 when a BGB team killed three and injured 17 villagers in an indiscriminate shooting on villagers following an altercation over the seizure of cattle from farmers at Baharampur village of Haripur upazila in Thakurgaon.

The National Human Rights Commission, the home ministry, the local administration and the BGB formed committees to investigate that shooting but the victim families said that they were yet to have justice.

Reference: New Age.

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