Contradicting the police account, family members of two of the suspects arrested in connection with the explosion at Pallabi Police Station said they were detained two days before the incident.
Family members and neighbours of two of the accused Shahidul Islam, 23, and Rafiqul Islam, 40, yesterday told The Daily Star that they were picked up by armed men in a black microbus on Monday from near their homes in Mirpur.
But officers said that Pallabi police raided Kalshi area around 2:00am on Wednesday and arrested three men, including the two, with two pistols, four bullets and a weighing machine fitted with bombs that exploded at the police station hours later.
Bus driver Shahidul was detained by several armed men while he was at a tea stall near his home in Bauniabadh area around 3:45pm, said Shamim, the stall owner.
Shahidul’s mother Peyari Begum filed a general diary with Pallabi Police Station a few hours later. The family also filed a complaint with Rab-4 in this connection the next day.
Describing the incident, shopkeeper Shamim said Shahidul and his cousin Selim were having snacks and hanging out at his stall when “two or three men in plainclothes carrying firearms got off a black microbus. One of them left his DB [detective branch] vest inside the vehicle. Then they asked, ‘Are you Shahidul?’ The moment Shahidul said yes, they took him to the microbus at gunpoint and sped away.”
The whole thing happened in seconds and Shahidul didn’t even have time to pay for the snacks.
Shamim and several others said the men didn’t look for anything else or seize anything.
Shahidul’s elder brother Rafiqul said the family members went to Pallabi Police Station where officers told them that they did not detain Shahidul and asked them to contact the Detective Branch office.
At the DB office, the family was told that even if the detectives caught Shahidul, the family would not get any information before three days.
Rafiqul and his mother Peyari then went back to Pallabi Police Station to lodge a general diary.
Peyari said her son Shahidul was a bus helper for a long time and then he applied for a driver’s licence in 2016. After he got it, he used to drive buses for several transport companies. Now he is a driver of a Mohammadpur-Abdullahpur bus of Tetulia Paribahan.
She added that Shahidul had never been accused in a case.
This correspondent also talked to several neighbours who also said that they knew Shahidul only as a bus driver.
Asked about the police claim that he was the member of a gang named Shahadat Bahini, they said that they had no knowledge of it.
The family members said they were shocked to see on TV Wednesday afternoon that Shahidul and two others had been arrested.
“How can a man, who has been in custody for two days, be involved with a bomb blast at a police station?” This was the question everyone in the family and the witnesses asked.
Not far from this neighbourhood, Shilpi Akhter, wife of another arrestee Rafiqul Islam, told The Daily Star that five or six men identifying themselves as law enforcers picked up her husband around 8:00pm on Monday from their home in Pallabi.
They also took him in a black microbus.
“I went to Pallabi Police Station soon afterwards and I was told that he was not there,” she said.
She added that she wanted to file a general diary but the officers told her that it would be unnecessary.
The grieving woman said her husband was a brick and sand trader. She also added that the men who took him didn’t ask for anything else or seize any object.
Meanwhile, Abdul Baten, additional commissioner of DB, at a press briefing at the DMP Media Centre yesterday said, “We will investigate the family’s statement. We have not received any such information. We arrested them. You have seen the object [the weighing machine] that we have recovered . We will investigate if there is any issue besides this.”
Of the three, the other arrestee, Mosharraf Hossain, 26, is from Tongi. The three were put on a 14-day remand yesterday.
Police said they were suspected of being hitmen.
On Wednesday morning, a bomb fitted inside a “weighing machine” exploded inside Pallabi Police Station, injuring four policemen and a support staff.
Police ruled out the involvement of any militant outfit, but US-based terrorism analyst SITE Intelligence Group in a tweet on the same night said IS claimed credit for the blast.