The illegal arms trade has gone up alarmingly recently in the wake of ongoing pre-election political turmoil and triggered by high demands from local criminals and terrorists, intelligence departments of law enforcement agencies have reported.
Intelligence sources said arms are being smuggled into the country through at least 20 different points along the border, mostly from India.
According to sources, syndicates smuggle arms across the border taking advantage of low-income people, students, foreign deportees and unemployed youth seeking for extra income. Women and young girls are also used to smuggle, paid as little as Tk3,000-4,000.
Though law enforcers have caught several smuggling rackets in recent days, the masterminds and leaders have remained largely out of their reach. Detectives said some smugglers in custody have revealed “sensational” information during interrogation.
The alarming rise in arms trade has propelled law enforcers to try to trace the masterminds behind the trade, Rapid Action Battalion’s (Rab) director of Legal and Media Wing ATM Habibur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune.
On January 18, Rab arrested one Fulshad Mia from the border area in Sardarpara village of Gangni upazila in Meherpur district, and recovered ten firearms from him, which he was meant to deliver to underground criminals in Dhaka.
Fulshad, a resident of Daulatpur upazila of neighbouring Kushtia district, confessed durinh primary interrogation that he has recently smuggled in more than 50 pieces of firearms through Bilgathua, Jamalpur, Pakuria, Munshiganj, Mohammadpur, Chollishpara, Solimerchar, Gorerchar, Morachar and Banglabazar on the Indian border in Kushtia and Meherpur districts.
Intelligence reports confirm a large number of firearms are coming into Bangladesh across the border from Kasharipara, Baushpara and Shirkarpur of Nadia district in India’s West Bengal.
The weapons are usually smuggled in to Bangladesh on trucks transporting cows, rice, cloth, spices and cosmetics, sources said.
Cow and rice traders receive the contraband arms on the Indian side of the border, which they hide among other goods on the trucks and mark them so the arms dealers can easily identify them when they cross into Bangladesh. This is the reason given for law enforcers failing to find most of the firearms during raids.
Moshiur Rahman, additional deputy commissioner of the Detective Branch (DP) of Police told the Dhaka Tribune they recently arrested an arms trader named Kazi Aminul Islam from the capital’s Fakirerpul area.During interrogation, he said they smuggle small arms such as pistols, revolvers and hand grenades. These are in high demand among petty criminals and muggers.
Aminul also said they usually sell the revolvers and pistols for Tk40,000 to Tk80,000 and make profit of around Tk20,000 to Tk25,000 for each.
Some law enforcers said the recent rise in arms smuggling could be attributed to the escalating tension in the country’s political scenario ahead of the next national elections.
According to Rab-5, huge number of firearms entered the country through Mankosha and Bindopur area of Chapainababganj district.
Two drug dealers by the name of Shah-Alam and Mashum in September last year also revealed during interrogation that unabated arms trade was going on in Bolladanga, Bokchor, Hakimpur, Bakhor Ali, Baghdanga, Masudpur, Shingnagar, Monohorpur, Roghunathpur, Kirnoganj and Chouka areas of the district.
Rab officials also said illegal arms enter the country through Akahura in Bramanbaria district, Bibirbazar in Comilla, Bilonia in Feni, Amtoli and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar districts, which then reach local criminals in virtually no time.
Sources in the Police Headquarters said the number of cases filed in connection with recovery of firearms and explosives have risen sharply compared to two previous years. Nearly 1600 cases were filed under the Firearms Act in 2010, 1476 in 2011 and 1627 in 2012.
Around 2,600 people were arrested across the country with illegal arms last year. Law enforcers also recovered nearly 2,500 firearms from different parts of the country while the number of recovered arms was 1,800 in 2011.
However, the actual number of illegal firearms smuggled in to the country was a lot higher than the official count of illegal arms recovery, sources said.
Rab Director General Mokhlesur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune that the elite crime busters were trying their level best to arrest the godfathers of the arms smugglers and bring the situation under control.