'At this moment, I cannot say how many (suspects) have died, but up to now at least 22,000 have been arrested'
The nationwide anti-narcotics drive will continue until the drug trade scenario is brought under control, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said on Monday.
Talking to reporters at the Secretariat, the minister deflected concerns over the high number of casualties resulting from the drive, which law enforcement agencies have repeatedly claimed are the result of “gunfights” during raids.
“The drive is against drugs and is not aimed at killing anyone,” the minister said.
"It's normal for the law enforcers to open fire to protect their own lives from the weapons of the illegal drug traders. Many policemen have also been injured when some criminals opened fire instead of surrendering.”
Asaduzzaman was unable to provide a figure for the number of fatalities which have occurred during the drive, which began on May 12.
"At this moment, I cannot say how many (suspects) have died, but up to now at least 22,000 have been arrested,” he said.
“We do not just kill anyone randomly, but those who are surrendering are being properly tried in court and sent to jail.”
Asked about the influential people with reported ties to the government who were named in the intelligence agencies’ list of drug dealers, the minister said there are some who have been released after charges against them were not proven.
“We are not conducting any raid or arresting anyone without 100% proof,” he said. “The police are still investigating the people named on the list.”
Asaduzzaman said the anti-narcotics drive had been successful so far, but there were many suspects still on the loose.
“Many drug dealers have fled from their previous locations, but we will not spare anyone,” he said. “All the criminals will be brought to book.”
He added that the Directorate of Narcotics Control alone had conducted 19,056 operations between January 1 and May 31. A total of 5,478 cases have been filed, with 6,132 people accused in them.
During the drives, 1,229,441 pieces of yaba pills, 11,325 bottles of phensedyl, 5.641kg of heroin, 1,682kg of marijuana and 5,471 ampoule injection drugs were recovered.
Monday’s press meet was arranged on the eve of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is observed on June 26 every year by United Nations member countries.
Asaduzzaman said the ministry would hold various programs nationwide today, including rallies, seminars, competitions and awareness-building initiatives.