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Bangladesh hunts for Mujib killers on the run

world Updated: Nov 20, 2009 13:25 IST

Bangladesh is determined to nab six former army officers linked to the assassination of founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who are believed to be living in foreign countries ranging from Pakistan to the US.

The national focus is now on these missing links to the 1975 killing following the denial of appeals against death sentence awarded to five former army officers in prison and these six said to be on the run.

The six have been holed up in Libya, the US, Canada, Pakistan and Kenya, the Daily Star reported Friday. A seventh officer reportedly died in Zimbabwe but the Supreme Court Thursday confirmed his death sentence too.

The six wanted men are Lt. Col. Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Lt. Col. Shariful Haque Dalim, Lt. Col. Nur Chowdhury, Lt. Col. A.M. Rashed Chowdhury, Capt Abdul Mazed and Risalder Moslehuddin Khan. Most of them were subsequently dismissed from service.

Widely known as "killer majors", men who took part in the August 1975 conspiracy to kill Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family, they were granted immunity in October that year by President Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, who they had helped instal.
Sheikh Mujib was killed less than four years after he led a mass movement that led to Bangladesh's freedom from Pakistan.
Some of the killers were given diplomatic assignments by subsequent governments of military strongmen Ziaur Rahman and H.M. Ershad.

The present government of Awami League, a party once led by the assassinated leader, said it will send out letters to foreign governments and seek help from the Interpol to nab the former officers.

Asked if the government knew their location, Home Minister Sahera Khatun said: "They frequently move from one country to another, and that is the only problem in locating them."

The newspaper quoted unnamed government sources and intelligence agencies as saying that some travel to different countries for business purposes.

Apparently, Lt. Col. Rashid, one of the key plotters of the massacre, has settled in Benghazi in Libya where he is into construction business. He often visits Pakistan and Singapore.

According to a recent report, Rashid participated in a meeting in a European city some years ago when a plot was hatched to kill Sheikh Hasina, Mujib's elder daughter and the country's current prime minister.

Lt. Col. Dalim, who had announced Mujib's killing on the radio on Aug 15, lives in Pakistan and frequently travels to Libya and Nairobi where he has business interests.

According to Bangladesh intelligence sources, Lt. Col. Nur Chowdhury and Lt. Col. Rashed Chowdhury are in Canada and the US. But some sources said Nur also lived in Libya and had sought asylum in Canada. Rashed is trying to secure asylum in the US, the newspaper said.

Abdul Mazed is also said to be in Benghazi in Libya.

The whereabouts of Moslehuddin, who actually pumped bullets into Sheikh Mujib and his family members, are unclear.

He was spotted in a village in West Bengal, bordering Bangladesh, some years ago. But he fled before he could be nabbed.

Another convict, Lt.Col. Aziz Pasha, died in Zimbabwe in June 2001.

The five on the death row in Bangladesh are Lt. Col. Syed Farooq Rahman, Lt. Col. Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Maj. Mohiuddin Ahmed and Maj. Bazlul Huda.

The five include those who formed the Freedom Party and contested elections. Some of them had given interviews justifying that the killings were "in national interest".

Lt. Col. Mohiuddin was deported to Bangladesh from Los Angeles in June 2007 after a US court rejected his appeal for residency.

Huda was extradited from Bangkok on the day the trial court pronounced its verdict in the case in 1998.

Dhaka does not have extradition treaty with most countries where the convicts are believed to be living, making securing their custody difficult and a long-drawn process.