At least five ethnic minority people were killed in a ‘gunfight’ with army personnel at a remote village of Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati hill district on Saturday morning.
The deceased – Rupayan Chakma, 24, Jackson Chakma, 26, Kathumoni Chakma, 26, Kanti Marma, 28, and Babul Chakma, 20, – were in combat uniform, the police said.
An Inter Services Public Relations release branded them as ‘armed terrorists’ and said that the army team also detained three of the gang and l seized a machinegun, a pistol and a submachine gun, two Chinese rifles, three self-loading rifles, huge ammunition and uniforms used by the gang.
The police said that of the deceased Rupayan of Langadu and Babul of Sajek were members of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (MN Larma), which had split away from the hill tracts-based regional party led by Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, popularly known as Santu Larma.
PCJSS (MN Larma) Dighinala unit information and publicity secretary Prashanta Chakma, however, denied that the deceased were members if their party claiming that their party had no armed members.
Baghaichari police officer-in-charge M Zakir Hossain said that all the bodies they have found were in Bangladesh Army’s latest combat uniform but barefooted.
The ISPR release said that an army team led by Lieutenant Colonel Ali Haider Siddique conducted an operation with specific intelligence of presence of ‘armed terrorists’ at Baradam village of Rupkari union at about 3:00am.
It claimed that the ‘terrorist group’ opened fire on the army patrol when they [the army] were cordoning them.
In retaliation, the army team opened fire killing the five, it said, adding that three of the gang were detained.
The police said 523 bullets were recovered from the spot after about 15 PCJSS members fled the area.
‘The seized arms were made in China and India,’ said police inspector Zakir.
He said ‘none’ was arrested in the incident.
Gyanjyoti Chakma of the village told reporters that a group of 20 people carrying arms approached him at about 8:00pm on Friday and wished to stay at his house for the night. He said that he could not refuse the proposal.
‘I woke up hearing gunfire at about 5:15am,’ village doctor Chattaleshwar Chakma told New Age. He said that it was a remote village with about 1,200 residents.
‘The gunfight ensued after a sentry of the armed group opened fire at the army patrol team at about 5:00am and continued for about an hour,’ Zakir said adding, ‘Later, on information we reached there at about 6:30am and found the bullet-riddled bodies lying around.’
The army’s Baghaihat zone commander Lieutenant Colonel Ali Haider Siddique told newsmen that the group had tried to use the family of Gyanjyoti Chakma as human shield but cautious firing by army could avoid casualty of any innocent citizen.
He said other members of the group could manage to flee but operations were on to arrest them.
During the gunfight, army corporal Liakat also sustained injuries.
Baghaicchari Health Complex physician Iftekhar Ahmed said that injuries in the head of Liakat might be a result of a scuffle. ‘He bled but was out of danger,’ the physician added.
The ISPR said that Liakat was rushed to Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.
Police sent the bodies to Khagrachhari General Hospital for autopsy.
About the seizure of army uniform, retired major general Fazle Elahi Akbar said that it was not a big deal since insurgents in different countries including India dressed in army uniform.
He said, ‘It is risky…the authorities should be more careful about the printing, storing and disposing of the uniform.’
-With New Age input