Reaching Rajshahi Rail Gate area around 5:30pm I hired a CNG-run auto-rickshaw to Baghmara which usually costs about Tk800 to Tk1,000 for a round trip.
But since it was almost sunset I had to hire one for Tk1,600 as none of them wanted to go there.
I asked the driver, Hossain, why he was charging so much and he said: “It is very risky to go to Baghmara after sunset.”
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Talking to a number of Baghmara residents I found that the eerie deserted streets are a common sight after sunset ever since the JMB high-ups were tried and executed in March, 2007.
JMB established a reign of terror in Baghmara and Natore’s Rani Nagar and Atrai from March 31 to May 24, 2004 and carried out over 350 operations including abduction, murder, torture by establishing three camps to eliminate the “atheist leftist extremists upon requests by the locals.” At least 24 people were at killed at the hands of the militants, who were assisted by some top leaders of the BNP-Jamaat government, ministers and local MPs, and police officials.
Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, the second-man of JMB, led the attacks under the banner of now-outlawed Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), an associate group of the JMB.
On December 26 last year, a suicide attack on the Ahmadiyya mosque of Baghmara killed the attacker and injured 10 others creating an atmosphere of fear.
Investigators found out that the attacker, Md Tarek Aziz alias Musa, was a member of New JMB’s suicide squad. International terrorist group Islamic State took credit for the attack.
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Baghmara Upazila Chairman Jakirul Islam Sentu denied that people were living in perpetual fear saying: “The people here are day-labourers or farmers who stay at home after a long day of work.”
On June 6, JMB member Jamal Uddin, cited as a suspect in the charge sheet of the case filed over the attack, was killed in a gunfight with Rajshahi police. He turned out to be a member of the JMB suicide squad, according to police.
After Jamal was killed, the investigation nearly stopped.
Md Selim Hossain, officer-in-charge of Baghmara police station, told the Dhaka Tribune that they are no longer involved with the case as it has been transferred to Rajshahi Detective Branch (DB).
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The Dhaka Tribune tried to contact Baghmara Inspector Azad who has been closed a few days ago on charges of being affiliated with the JMB but he was unavailable.
OC Motiar said: “We are suspecting JMB is behind the attack, as part of their nationwide attack policy.”
Since last year, the police have arrested a number of top leaders of the main JMB and New JMB from Baghmara area including an adviser and the second-in-command of Bangla Bhai, and a couple of suspects in a number of targeted killings carried out by New JMB.
On the other hand, several former JMB leaders have joined mainstream political parties recently and are set to contest the upcoming union parishad election.