It was 9:00pm on 31 July. Major (retd) Sinha Mohammad Rashed Khan was on his way to Cox’s Bazar from Teknaf through the Marine Drive in his private car, accompanied by a certain Sifat. Since the increase of deaths in ‘gunfights’ in the area, the road falls silent after evening. It has been a place of horror.
Sinha’s vehicle was first stopped at a check post of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). After knowing his identity, the BGB men allowed him to move on. Sinha then reached the second check post at Shamlapur in Baharchhara union of Teknaf. Following police directives, Sifat descended from the car with his hands over his head. Sinha first introduced himself and came out of the car, with his hands up as well. According to Sifat, the police outpost’s in-charge inspector Liakat Ali shot three bullets on Sinha’s chest without any questions asked. Immediately he fell down to earth. Sifat said Sinha had a personal pistol, but that was inside his car.
This is how the intelligence report described the incident.
But, the police narrated a different version. According to the police, the army officer was coming to Cox’s Bazar from Teknaf in his private vehicle with another person around 10:30pm. When police halted his vehicle and attempted a search, an altercation ensued. Police then opened fire as the army officer brandished his pistol. The army officer was seriously injured and was taken to Cox’s Bazaar Sadar Hospital where on-duty physicians declared him dead.
Police later conducted a search at the rest house where Sinha and his associates were staying. Police claimed to have recovered foreign liquor and cannabis from there.
Cox’s Bazar police superintendent ABM Masud Hossain said residents in Shamlapur contacted police, alleging that there were robbers in the vehicle. Police then tried to stop the vehicle at the check post. As the passenger of the vehicle endeavored to open fire on police, they retaliated in self-defence. The man was killed in the firing.
Cox’s Bazaar Sadar Hospital residential physician Shahin Abdur Rahman told Prothom Alo that the former army officer died prior to reaching the hospital. An autopsy was performed on Saturday morning.
The physician said the former army officer’s body had injury marks on his chest and back. Whether these were bullet wounds or not can only be said once the autopsy report is available.
The upper part of Sinha’s body was smeared while bullet wounds were seen on his back and throat. There was mark of handcuff on his wrists.
The deceased hailed from Jashore. His father late Ershad Khan was a deputy secretary at the finance ministry. In 2018, Sinha retired from the army while stationed at the Syedpur cantonment. He worked as a member of the Special Security Force (SSF) responsible for the prime minister’s security.
Intel Report: Sinha went to Cox’s Bazar to make travel docu
According to the intelligence report, Sinha went to Cox’s Bazar to make a travel documentary for his YouTube channel ‘Just Go’. Four people, including three of Film and Media Studies department of Stamford University, were with him. They were staying at Nilima Resort in Himchhari.
They shot at different places in Cox’s Bazar. On 31 July, Sinha went to Teknaf’s Shamlapur hills with his associate Sifat.
When they were returning around 8:30pm after finishing the shooting, some local people alleged to the Shamlapur police outpost that the people in the car were robbers.
The intelligence report added that after descending from the hills, Sinha and Sifat started their journey and reached the Shamlapur police outpost around 9:00pm. The policemen, including the inspector Liakat Ali, were prepared to catch the robbers. When they reached the check point, as per the demand of the policemen, Sinha stopped his car. Once police came to know his identity, they were allowed to go. Liakat Ali then stopped them again and asked them to come out of the car. Once Sinha got out of his car, Liakat shot him three times.
It added that around 9:45pm, locals and a field officer of an intelligence body Ayub Ali came to the spot. They found the retired major bullet-hit and alive. Once Ayub wanted to video record the scene, police asked for his identity. After his introduction, police then snatched away his handset and identity card.
The report also said a mini-truck was taken to the spot around 10:00pm. Sinha was alive when he was taken on the truck. The truck reached the Cox’s Bazar Hospital after 1 and 45 minutes, where physicians declared him dead. The distance from the spot to the hospital was just an hour. The belated time was mentioned as ‘ill strategy of police’ in the report.
The SP also said two cases were filed in connection with the incident. Two people, including Sifat, were arrested. A police officer seeking anonymity said police then searched Sinha’s car and the Nilima Resort and recovered a German made pistol with nine rounds of bullet, 50 yaba pills, cannabis, and two bottles of foreign liquor.
The intelligence report also mentioned about recovery of the foreign liquor and cannabis.
The resort’s manager Md Solaiman Monjur told Prothom Alo that Sinha rented one of their resorts for two months. They were staying there. On 31 July, Sinha and Sifat went for shooting and two others were staying at the resort.
Solaiman said around 2 in the night one of the officials at the resort informed him that police had recovered foreign liquor and cannabis after a search at the resort. Police detained one of them during the drive. The official, Solaiman added, did not tell him about the amount of cannabis and the number of liquor bottles.
When this reporter visited the Shamlapur check post, he saw five constables sitting there. One of the constables said they had just been deployed, so they did not know anything about the incident.
A local fisherman said at least 200 people were killed by law enforcement on the marine drive in the past one year. But, no one dared to raise a voice against it.
He said plainclothes were seen collecting information over the incident in the locality, but people kept mum in fear of ‘crossfire’.
The anti-drug drive was launched in Bangladesh in 2018. As many as 287 people were killed in ‘gunfights’ with police, BGB and RAB in Cox’s Bazar district alone until 30 July this year.
Police claimed that most of the killed are listed yaba traders by the home ministry.