Search for ‘Hercules’ leads to govt vehicle

Ahmed Zayeef . Dhaka | Update:

Law enforcement agencies haven’t been able to identify ‘Hercules’—a so-called vigilante who took it upon himself to punish alleged rapists by killing them. On a different note, upon medical test, doctors found no signs of rape on the victim’s body, according to their report submitted before the court.

Meanwhile, as our investigation revealed, before they were killed, two suspects in the rape case, Kabith Islam and Ishtiaq Ahmed, had been abducted from Savar and Sitakunda, respectively. According to the eyewitnesses, the captors of both the suspects identified themselves as being “law enforcement officials.” However, no law enforcement agencies said they had detained or arrested any of the individuals.

Prothom Alo traced the car which was used to abduct Ishtiaq Ahmed from Sitakunda area. It is registered as a government car, belonging to the headquarters of a law enforcement agency. Signs were also found that sophisticated surveillance technologies had been deployed to locate the actual whereabouts of the targets before they were killed.
Ishtiaq was abducted while he was on a bus, en route to Chattogram from Dhaka, on 22 January. Two days later, his body was recovered 240 kilometres away, at Beltala village, Jhalakathi. A typed note was found to be attached around his neck, which read: “I am the rapist of [the victim’s name]. This is my punishment.”
Kabith Islam, on the other hand, was picked up from Nabinagar, Savar, on 24 January.

A week later, his dead body was recovered from 260 kilometres north of Nabinagar, at Angaria village, too, in Jhalakathi. His body had also a note affixed, in which the vigilante executioner was named “Hercules.” The mysterious case of “Hercules”—a Greek hero—led human rights groups to question the way the rape victims were executed.

“Where has this Hercules come from? How? I believe it is the responsibility of the state and the police to find out who they are.” said Kazi Reazul Huq, the Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, at a meeting in Dhaka on 6 February.

and that details would be disclosed once the investigation ended. Kazi Reazul Huq is currently abroad and couldn’t be contacted. Nazrul Islam, the commission’s acting chairman, commented on Prothom Alo’s finding, “This is a serious allegation. The state will have to investigate the matter with renewed vigour. It needs to be revealed who in the law enforcement agencies did this.”

No signs of rape found
Both Ishtiaq and Kabith, the killed rape suspects, lived in Bhandaria, Pirojpur. They were friends. On 17 January, a case was filed with the local police in Bhandaria, accusing them of raping a madrasa student. Filed by the victim’s father, the case charged that Ishtiaq and Kabith abducted her from streets and raped her. A week after the case was filed, Ishtiaq’s dead body was recovered, and another week later, Kabith’s.

However, the medical test report into the case submitted on January 18 before the court noted, “No evidence of a recent forceful sexual contact has been found.” The father of the victim, however, refuted the conclusion by the medical team, saying that the case was filed days after the rape incident. Therefore, he said, evidence of rape could not be found.

Two female doctors at Pirojpur Sadar Hospital conducted the test. One of them, Jannatul Maowa, told Prothom Alo, “If an individual was raped, there should be signs of internal or external injuries [in her/his body]. We look for that. We submitted to the court what we found upon examining the body.”

Ishtiaq was dragged away from a bus

A day after the case was filed, on January 18, Ishtiaq moved to Dhaka from Bhandaria—in a mess in Badda. On 20 January, he visited his in law’s residence in Tolarbagh, Mirpur, Dhaka and stayed there for two days before departing for Chattogram, according to his wife, Shamsunnahar. While on the bus, Ishtiaq had several conversations with her wife. After seven in the evening, Shamsunnahar could never contact him.

While he was living at the mess in Badda, Ishtiaq was often visited by Nur Islam, who was living in another mess near Ishtiaq’s. Nur Islam told Prothom Alo that a local rickshaw van driver, Sabuj, took Ishtiaq to the bus station. When contacted, Sabuj said that Ishtiaq boarded a bus belonging to Ena Paribahan at 4 PM from Nadda, Dhaka. He talked to Ishtiaq twice while he was on the bus. The last time Sabuj talked to Ishtiaq, he said the bus was crossing Cumilla. His phone was found unavailable when Sabuj again tried to reach him the night.

When approached, the staff at the Ena bus stoppage at Nadda said the bus that departs for Chattogram originally comes from the Mahakhali main stoppage half an hour beforehand. Staff at the Mahakhali main stoppage of Ena Paribahan showed the registration number of the bus, which left the stoppage at 3.30 PM on January 22 to Chattogram, and the identity of the bus driver and supervisor. Their identity would not be disclosed for the sake of their security.

When contacted, the supervisor of the bus told Prothom Alo that the bus faced a security checking that night when it was at Darogahat, Sitakunda. Three individuals, accompanying them was a white car, were carrying out the search, he said. “Our bus was let go soon. However, when the bus arrived at Barabkunda area, we again saw the white car, speedily trying to chase us and giving the signal to stop. When we obeyed the signal and stopped, the three individuals emerged out of the car and identified themselves as being law enforcement officials.”

“The plainclothes individuals were matching all passengers with a photo in their smartphone. At one stage, they captured one passenger.” When the supervisor was showed the photo of Ishtiaque, he confirmed that it was indeed Ishtiaq who was abducted from the bus that night.

The bus driver confirmed the supervisor’s account and provided further details. He said when the white car was leaving the scene with the passenger, he photographed the registration plate of the car with his mobile phone. The photograph showed a Pajero car, assembled by the state-run company Progoti, a kind of vehicle normally issued to government officers.

After searching against the car’s registration number with Bangladesh Road Transport Authority’s database, it was found that the owner of the car was a ‘Gov’t Department,’ while the address mentioned was of the headquarter of a law enforcement agency.

To further ascertain the account of the supervisor and driver, some passengers of the bus, who had been named in the passenger’s list of that day, were contacted. One passenger, who identified himself as a student of a college in Feni, confirmed, saying that he also witnessed the bus being stopped and a passenger (Ishtiaq) being taken away in a white car.

Two microbuses for Kabith
After the rape case was filed against him, Kabith Islam moved from Bhandaria to his house at Mohammadpur, Dhaka. The next day he again moved to a friend’s place at Nabinagar, Savar. His father, Abul Kalam Mollah, acknowledged that he advised his son to stay outside the house for some time. After Kabith began to live in his friend’s place, he talked to his father every day. They last talked at 9.50 PM on January 24. The next day at evening his friend called Abul Kalam Mollah to inform him that Kabith had been picked up by plainclothes men who had come in two Hiace microbuses.

When contacted, the friend of Kabith’s declined to talk to Prothom Alo. However, Kabith’s father talked to him and allowed this reporter to hear the conversation by turning the phone’s speaker on. He said to Abul Kalam Mollah that Kabith and he was having a cup of tea in a tea stall near Niribiri Road Tower at Nabinagar. Suddenly, two microbuses appeared out of blue, he said, and four individuals from the first microbus apprehended them and took them behind. The men then showed them to someone inside the microbus and asked him/her, “Which one?” The individual inside the microbus, in response, pointed to Kabith. The microbus then took Kabith and let his friend go.

Surveillance
Abdul Kalam Mollah obtained Kabith’s phone log. The log shows that at 10. 14 PM on January 24, just hours before Kabith would be abducted, four SMSs had been sent to his phone from three different phone numbers in less than half an hour. The phone numbers, when tried, were found unavailable.
Similarly, Ishtiaq’s phone call log revealed that the time his bus was crossing Cumilla [as reckoned by the rickshaw van driver Sabuj], a series of SMSs were being sent from a particular phone number.

An official aware of criminal investigation methods said that such SMSs, which do not contain any content in their body, are sent to the target’s mobile phone to identify his precise location. While the recipient doesn’t see the SMSs, he said, the trace of the SMSs remains in the phone log.
When asked whether anyone other than a law enforcement agency has such a capability to precisely locate a target, Ruhul Amin, DIG (Media) at Police Headquarters, told Prothom Alo that it is done by a government-assigned agency, from which all other intelligence and law enforcing agencies take help to do it. He also said no one except for the security force can do it.

Sultana Kamal, an eminent human rights activist, told Prothom Alo, “It is a matter of grave concern if it turns out to be true that the two rape suspects had been abducted by the law enforcement agencies before getting killed. If the matter isn’t investigated now, questions will arise whether it was a premeditated act. If those entrusted with the task of ensuring law and order violate the law, where will we go?”

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