News24

Bangladesh court indicts 11 in arms haul

2011-11-16 17:20

Dhaka - A Bangladesh court has charged 11 people, including a top Islamist, an ex-home minister and an Indian insurgent leader, over 10 truckloads of arms seized seven years ago, a prosecutor said on Wednesday.

The illegal arms cache is believed to have been the largest to be uncovered in the South Asian nation and included hundreds of rockets, rocket launchers, pistols, hand grenades and bullets.

A court in Bangladesh's southeastern port city of Chittagong late Tuesday charged the 11 men for their alleged involvement in the weapons smuggling, state prosecutor Kamal Uddin Ahmed told AFP.

"Those indicted included ex-home minister Lotfuzzaman Babar, ex-industries minister and the leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Maolana Motiur Rahman Nizami and two ex-chiefs and senior officers of intelligence agencies," Ahmed said.

Bangladesh police discovered the weapons in April 2004 as they were unloaded at a jetty of a state-owned Bangladeshi fertiliser factory.

The weapons were meant to be smuggled across the border to a north-eastern Indian rebel group, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which was waging a campaign for independence from India in Assam state.

Most of the accused, but not ULFA chief Paresh Baruah, were present in the court when the charges were read out, Ahmed said. Baruah is believed to have fled Bangladesh.

Police investigator Moniruzzaman Chowdhury told AFP the arms, including rocket launchers, were stashed in around 1 500 boxes, and had been made in a Beijing factory.

The latest indictments came after prosecutors in November 2004 charged around 40 miner players such as the porters who carried the weapons.

The court has set November 29 for the start of the trial, he said.

The weapons were discovered during the government of Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which was allied with Jamaat.

The parties were thrown out of power after suffering a massive defeat in December 2004 elections.

The new Awami League-led government, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been pushing for arrests of the alleged major figures in the case since coming to power in January 2009.