Use of illegal firearms has increased alarmingly in the country as a group of organised smugglers are bringing them into the country taking advantage of weak border security, according to sources in law enforcement agencies
There are at least 119 points on the border which are being used to smuggle these firearms in, according to sources in intelligence agencies.
Officials say the majority of the arms shipments is entering the country via the border points in Chapainawabganj, Benapole, Satkhira, Comilla and Brahmanbaria districts.
The firearms which are being used in all kinds of scenarios – from trivial arguments to militant attacks, sources said.
According to Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), at least 237 pistols, 26 revolvers, 152 guns, 5,159 rounds of bullets, 196 magazines, 60 bombs, three grenades, 47 crude bombs, 36kg of explosives and 69kg of gunpowder have been seized from the border areas during smuggling attempts in the last four years.
Asked about the rise in arms smuggling through the border, outgoing BGB chief Aziz Ahmed said the paramilitary force was trying to curb it despite the limitations.
“We have limitations, such as lack of vehicle scanners and no fence on the border, but we are still trying our best to stop illegal arms from entering the country,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. “We have informed the ministry [Ministry of Home Affairs] about these limitations and they have assured us of providing the logistical support.”
The number of cases filed over firearms smuggling has increased as well, but there have been no progress in curbing the supply into the country.
“The firearms are entering the country mainly from India through the border,” Detective Branch Joint Commissioner Abdul Baten told the Dhaka Tribune. “Our officials are working to trace the source of these firearms and will be arrested as soon as they are found.”
However, a high police official said legal firearms traders are involved with the smuggling racket.
“Bringing the arms in, they remove the serial numbers so they cannot be traced,” he told the Dhaka Tribune, requesting not to be named.”
The allegation was refuted by Nasir Ahmed, secretary of Bangladesh Arms Dealers Association, who said arms dealers have never had any connection with such illegal practice.
“If the law enforcers find any specific proof of illegal arms trading against any of us, they can take take legal action,” he said.
On June 18 this year, police recovered a large cache of small arms and ammunition from a canal in Dhaka’s Uttara area; 97 pistols, 494 magazines, 10 bayonets and thousands of rounds of bullets were found.
Investigation on this recovery is still in progress, but no significant clue has been found yet that could lead to the source of the firearms, said Sanowar Hossain, additional deputy commissioner of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) unit.
A large number of these smuggled firearms is going to the militants in the country, officials said.
“The firearms recovered from militants have the seal of a Indian factory,” said CTTC chief Monirul Islam. “But chances are that they were modified in India. We are working to find out the original sources of these guns.”
Dhaka streets flooded with illegal firearms
Dhaka has seen a disturbing rise in the use of illegal firearms in recent times, particularly by political leaders.
In one of recent incidents, two leaders of Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders were found to be using illegally acquired firearms during an eviction drive of Dhaka South City Corporation in Gulistan area.
In the period of January-September this year, at least 194 individuals have been arrested in Dhaka in connection with illegal firearms, but none of them have been tried at court yet as charges against them have not been submitted.
“It is not correct that none of the cases have gone to trial. A number of accused have been sentenced to prison. But in a greater number of cases, there are no witnesses. We are working to resolve these cases with the help of the investigation officers,” said Abdullah Abu, public prosecutor at Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court, when the Dhaka Tribune contacted him.