In the gun attack on March 18, two polling officials, four Ansar members, and a candidate’s agent were killed, while 29 others were injured
Three days have passed since the deadly attack in Rangamati that left two polling officers and five others dead, but police are yet to get hold of any of the perpetrators or even ascertain their identities.
Baghaichhari police station OC MA Monzur told the Dhaka Tribune around 50 unnamed individuals have been made accused in the case filed with the police station over the incident.
Law enforcement officials have gleaned some information on the incident from victims and intelligence sources, but this information cannot be disclosed while the case is under investigation, he added.
Meanwhile, a seven-member probe committee formed to investigate the attack visited the place of occurrence (PO) and victims who have been admitted to Baghaichhari Upazila Health Complex.
The committee took statements from polling officers, drivers of the three chander gari (local transports) who came under attack, as well as the family members of victims.
In the gun attack on March 18, two polling officials, four Ansar members, and a candidate’s agent were killed, while 29 others were injured.
The attack and the lead up
Locals said they had sensed tension in the air in the lead up to voting day on March 18, but thought there would be no incident more severe than a clash between supporters of rival candidates.
On the election day, Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS-Santu Larma) candidate Boro Rishi Chakma boycotted the vote, bringing allegations of vote rigging the night before.
Several victims of the attack said polling agents of Boro Rishi Chakma left the polling centres after the boycott announcement, and three to four ethnic youths came to the polling centre around 12:30pm. The youths spoke to some of the 200 voters who were standing in line at the polling centre at the time, and all the voters subsequently left without voting.
The victims added that it is suspected that the voters were threatened by the youths, but security measures were not tightened at the polling centre.
Humayun Rashid, a polling officer of the Konglak Government Primary School centre, confirmed the victims accounts.
He added that the assistant presiding officer had told the polling agents of the PCJSS-Santu Larma candidate they would not be allowed to re-enter the centre, but they left regardless.
Rawshan Ara, an Ansar member who was on-duty at the Machalang Government Primary School centre and is among those injured in the attack, said similar incidents to those at Konglak Government Primary School centre also took place at the centre where she had been stationed.
After the polls closed at 4pm, polling officials of centres at Baghaihat, Machalang and Konglak gathered at Baghaihat and started for the Baghachhari sadar.
Humayun Rashid said the vehicle from the Konglak centre travelled to Machalang without any protection, but received an army escort from Machalang to Baghaihat. At Baghaihat BGB took over security once all members of the convoy had gathered.
Rawshan Ara said they started from Baghaihat around 5:30pm. They reached Sare Egaro Kilometre around 6:30pm, when the attack took place. A BGB patrol vehicle was leading the convoy, with the three vehicles carrying the polling officials following.
While speaking to the probe committee, BGB Battalion 54 Second-in-Command (2iC) Major Ashraf Ali said the attack was carried out when the BGB vehicle turned a corner of a hill, losing sight of the trailing convoy.
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Ansar Platoon Commander Shamsuzzaman, who was in one of the trailing vehicles, said multiple attackers opened fire on the convoy with submachine guns once the BGB escort had turned the corner.
According to OC Monzur, the last two vehicles in the convoy suffered the most damage in the attack.
Rawshan Ara said the vehicle she was in had fallen behind in the convoy, and the attackers focused most of their fire at it.
The driver suffered a gunshot wound, but did not stop driving until they fled the scene and reached the upazila health complex at around 7pm, she added.
‘Attack was planned in advance’
Law enforcement officials said the nature of the attack indicates that it had been planned in advance.
OC Monzur said the site and timing of the attack were chosen such that the attackers could easily evade capture.
BGB Battalion 54 2iC Major Ashraf Ali told the probe committee the attackers appeared to be waiting for the convoy at the site of the incident, and they did not start shooting until the vehicles were in such a position that security forces could not return fire.
He further said evidence suggested that the attackers had two teams: one on the hill, and a back up team on the slopes in case there was a trailing security vehicle.
The attackers initially began firing from the left side of the road, but took position to shoot at the last vehicle from both sides after the previous two had passed.
Baghaihat polling centre Presiding Officer Shahin Al Mahmud claimed he had also heard gunshots from top of the hill.
NHRC visits the injured at CMH
A delegation from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) visited the injured in the Rangamati attack at the Combined Military Hospital Chittagong (CMHC) yesterday evening.
Al Mahmud Faizul Kabir, director (Complaints and Inquiry) of NHRC, told the Dhaka Tribune that they visited the injured at the CMH and spoke to them.
"We will visit the crime scene and talk to all the stakeholders over the armed assault and killings of Rangamati’s Baghaichhari upazila," added the director.
Seven people—including two assistant presiding officers—were shot dead, and at least 29 others injured, in a gun attack on a motorcade of election officials on the Sajek-Dighinala Road in Baghaichhari on Monday evening.
Seven of the injured were brought to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka, on Tuesday, from the CMHC; where a total of 17 were admitted on Monday night.
Seven more injured are also currently undergoing treatment at the Baghaichhari Upazila Health Complex.
The officials were engaged in polls duty at three polling centres in the upazila during the voting in the second phase of the upazila polls.