The weapons and ammunition recovered from Rupganj upazila in Naraynganj and Diabari in Uttara are reportedly similar in nature. As such, law enforcers suspect that both massive caches of arms are from the same source.
Naturally, this raises a number of questions. Where are these weapons coming from and where were they going? If they were indeed just transiting in Bangladesh, how did they make it as far as Dhaka without being caught? Who has the means to collect such a massive armoury? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, what did they mean to do with them?
According to security analysts, the recovery of such weapons twice in the span of just one year suggests that the gang or organisation responsible for their distribution is still active. Needless to say, recoveries of such large weapons hauls are a bad omen for the security of Bangladesh.
Despite a year having passed since the Uttara weapons cache was recovered, Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit Chief Monirul Islam said it was still not clear who was behind the weapons distribution operation and what is the country of origin for the arms.
However, the arms and ammunition from Diabari, including 263 magazines and 217 bullets as well as submachine guns, and those recovered from Rupgonj, seem to have been manufactured around the same time, the CTTC chief added.
Monirul also said that the Rupganj cache seemed to have been in the canal for about a year, from when the Diabari raid was conducted.
In addition, wireless communications systems recovered at both sites used the same repeaters, while the weapons and ammo at both caches were missing manufacturing details.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque on Friday said that the raid was conducted due to evidence obtained from Sharif Mia, who was arrested after an SMG was found at his house.
It is still being investigated whether there were more arms in the hands of this syndicate, he added, saying that it would soon be revealed who was gathering the arms and for what purpose.
However, Sharif’s pregnant wife Fahima Begum claimed that her husband left their house to attend a hearing on the day of the raid, on May 29, and police began the operation while he was still absent.
Furthermore, she alleged that police asked her to stay in her room while they conducted the search. Within a short time, they summoned her to the kitchen and claimed that a firearm was found next to a drum used for storage of rice.
“I spend the majority of my time in the kitchen. If guns were kept there, I would have noticed them,” she alleged, saying that she found the arms recovery unbelievable.
“Police initially said they were looking for drugs. However, they later only talked about recovering weapons. They had even already brought a bag to take away the firearm. Did they know they were going to find a gun?” she questioned. “Why did they mention drugs then?”
In addition, sources from law enforcement agencies also raised questions as to why a drug dealer would possess a cache of such sophisticated weaponry.
Rocket launchers, time devices, SMGs and walkie-talkies are normally not used by general criminals. These are more common among separatist organisations.
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPPS) President Maj Gen (retd) Moniruzzaman told the Dhaka Tribune that there were two main reasons why such weapons would be in the country.
“Sophisticated weapons such as these would only be in the country if someone was planning major sabotage operations or if they were transiting to a different location,” he said.
He added that however the weapons may have entered the country, negligence had to be involved in some form.
The BIPPS President also emphasised the security threat posed by the fact that such a large store of weapons were able to get so close capital without being detected. He also claimed that this was evidence that a well-organised and equipped group was involved with the weapons and they had to be identified as soon as possible.
Moreover, security expert Brig Gen Sakhawat Hossain said that it was crucial to determine the country of origin for the weapons to find who was responsible.
Additionally, security experts and law enforcement officials said that the weapons were factory manufactured and of military grade, but these kinds of arms were traded in the black market for three or four times their original value. Hence, they identified investigating such illegal trade channels as a key area of focus for the investigation.