Dhaka – The number of deaths in ‘gunfights’ during a nationwide anti-narcotic raid has crossed the 100-mark in less than three weeks in Bangladesh.
At least 120 suspected drug dealers have been killed and more than 9,000 others were arrested since the security forces have began the operation as part of the government move to eliminate drug abuse from the South Asian country.
Among them 14 were killed in the so-called gun battles between the lawmen and the drug dealers on Tuesday night. Three of them were killed in Dhaka, two in Jessore and one each in Chittagong, Cumilla, Sirajganj, Narail, Cox’s Bazar and Chuadanga.
Bodies of three other drug peddlers were recovered after they died in infighting in south-western district of Magura, according to police claim, which could not be verified independently.
In response to concerns by the rights activists over the extra-judicial killings, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said on Wednesday that there were no cases of such custodial deaths.
“They are being killed in gunfights as they refuse to surrender or they challenge the law enforcement agencies,” the minister told reporters after a meeting with US ambassador in Dhaka.
Marcia Stephens Bloom Bernicat, the ambassador, said that everyone should have get the change of defend them in the court of law. “We want zero tolerance over drug abuse, but every accused should be brought to the justice,” she told reporters after the meeting.
Bernicat emphasised on stopping the source of the drugs and tracing the main traders to make the efforts meaningful.
The Home Minister said the government has been alerted against any mistakes by the law enforcement agencies during the operations.
“We will take measures against such incident, if any, after investigation by the magistrate,” the minister said referring to the provision of the law.
The Rapid Action Battalion said one of the leading drug traders was among those killed in a gunfight between the security forces and members of the drug gang.
“We encountered a gun attack carried out by the drug dealers during a raid at a home in Dhaka,” battalion commander Manzur Kabir said adding that three of them were killed on the scene.
Two pistols and 18,000 pieces of Yaba tablet, a pill made of caffeine and methamphetamine, were also seized from the scene, he added.
The law enforcement agencies on May 12 began the nationwide campaign to prevent the surging trade in methamphetamines and other narcotics.