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S Africa to send Bangladesh grenade attack suspect back for trial

Bangladesh is expecting a fugitive suspect involving a grisly grenade attack on a major opposition political rally in 2004 will be returned by South Africa where he has been hiding for years to avoid legal proceedings in the South Asian country.

world Updated: Aug 20, 2015 10:45 IST
HT Correspondent

Bangladesh is expecting a fugitive suspect involving a grisly grenade attack on a major opposition political rally in 2004 will be returned by South Africa where he has been hiding for years to avoid legal proceedings in the South Asian country.

As a delegation of South Africa is visiting Bangladesh, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said South Africa has agreed to repatriate Maulana Tajuddin Ahmed, a key suspect in the case.

South Africa’s Deputy Minister for the Department of International Relations and Development, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, is leading the delegation.

If it happens, it will be a major development to bring the people behind the politically sensitive case to light as the attack on the rally of the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina left at least 24 people dead and scores wounded in front of the headquarters of Bangladesh Awami League party. Hasina had narrowly escaped the August 21 attack despite more than one powerful grenades exploded very close to her podium where she just finished her speech as chief guest. Observers say the attack was designed to take political advantage by eliminating the opposition force led by Hasina and creating chaos in the country.

Hasina’s Awami League party blamed the then government of Khaleda Zia, her arch rival, was behind the attack. Khaleda’s elder son Tarique Rahman, also senior vice chairman of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is a key accused for allegedly backing the attackers. He has been living in London for years as he faces charges of corruption.

Banned Islamist group Harkatul Jihad’s leader Mufti Hannan is another key suspect in the case. He is currently behind bars.

State-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha has reported that Kamal requested the visiting delegation to extradite Tajuddin.

He is a brother of former deputy minister in Khaleda Zia’s cabinet, Abdus Salam Pintu, during her premiership in 2001-2006. Pintu is also an accused in the case and is currently in prison.

The appeal to South Africa has been made after authorities came to know from Interpol that Tajuddin has been living in South Africa.

On August 19, 2014, the Interpol informed Bangladesh that Tajuddin was in South Africa and it issued a red alert against him as a most wanted suspect.

The two countries will need to sign an extradition treaty to proceed further.

“South Africa has agreed to send back Maulana Tajuddin to Bangladesh and for this they want to sign an extradition treaty with us,” Kamal was quoted as saying by the news agency.

“We have exchanged information and other documents for the next course of measures to this end,” he said.

According to a prosecution witness in the case, Pintu (Abdus Salam Pintu) sat in a meeting at his official residence with a group of militant leaders including his brother Maulana Tajuddin and Mufti Hannan and assured them of giving support for security for the attack.

Maj (retd) Atiqur Rahman, then deputy director of the intelligence unit of the Rapid Action Battalion, told a court in 2013 that Maulana Tajuddin was a key man behind the attack.