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Posted: 2018-12-03 18:00:00

Law enforcers on surveillance have been picking up a lot of chatter on illegal arms trade ahead of the national election.

Mobile surveillance led law enforcers to several such gangs which have been active lately, said officials of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC), adding that criminal groups were using codenames for different explosives and firearms for communication.

They are using “mud” for explosives, “chakti” for revolvers and “shaater maal” or “paacher maal” for pistols.

Police sources said “shaater maal” can be loaded with seven bullets at a time while “paacher maal” with five.

However, the use of codenames for firearms is nothing new. In the past, criminals used “elephant” to refer to big firearms, “horse” for revolver and “banyan tree” to mean bullets.

Codename “mud” has replaced “sound box”, a popular codename used in the past for explosives in the underworld, CTTC officials said.

The counter-terrorism unit came to know about the latest use of codenames following the arrests of four people earlier this year.

Three of the arrestees -- Anwar Hossain Babu of Sarker Arms Company, Rangpur; AKM Shahabuddin Khan of Khan Arms Store, Mymensingh; and Ali Babul of Netrakona Arms Shop -- were arrested between March and June.

The fourth, Jakir Hossein Bacchu, worked as a manager at Samsul Islam Arms shop in Dhaka's Kamalapur. He was held in April.

All of them helped criminals by lending and selling legally imported arms to them to make easy money, according to the CTTC.

The demand for small arms among criminal gangs had shot up before the election due on December 30, an official of the CTTC's arms enforcement team told The Daily Star.

A boost in the smuggling of gunpowder and explosives indicates that plans for subversive activities centring the election are underway, said the official, preferring anonymity.

In a meeting with law enforcers on November 22, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed asked law enforcers to expedite drives against illegal arms before the polls.

Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general (operation) of the Police Headquarters, said raids against illegal arms was a continuous process and that they would intensify it when necessary.

On October 22, detectives arrested 11 people with five kgs of gunpowder at a hotel in Dhaka's Motijheel.

“The explosives were brought to the capital for carrying out subversive activities ahead of the election,” said a top official of DB police, requesting anonymity.

A month later, a patrol team of Border Guard Bangladesh recovered two firearms and ammunition from a border area in Chapainawabganj.

The demand for firearms usually rises before election, said Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner of CTTC arms enforcement team.

“We are conducting raids to nab arms dealers with links to criminals,” he said.

According to the Police Headquarters, 1,872 cases were filed under the Arms Act and 735 under the Explosives Act in the first nine months of this year. Most of these cases were filed in September when law enforcers began the special drive against illegal arms. 

Explosives are smuggled into the country through four border points -- Jashore, Kushtia, Chapainawabganj and Jhenidah. Strong vigilance has been ensured at those points ahead of the polls, said Jahangir.

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