A Rapid Action Battalion team have been conducting a rescue operation at a Khulna city street since Monday evening to recover noted litterateur and columnist Farhad Mazhar, who has been missing since morning.
Farhad's wife Farida Akhter on Monday evening filed a general diary with the Adabor police station, saying that some unknown people kidnapped her husband and asking for Tk35 lakh ransom.
RAB 6 Director Khandker Rafiqul Islam told the Dhaka Tribune that they were able to trace the pro-BNP columnist's mobile phone somewhere near KDA Approach street in Khulna city.
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Two RAB personnel are seen looking for Farhad Mazhar under and beside the bed at a Khulna city residence on Monday, July 3, 2017 Dhaka Tribune
"Currently we are searching every house in this street (KDA Approach) and the Ibrahim street beside this one," the director said.
The drive is still on.
Earlier in the morning, a family friend of Farhad's contacted Adabor police notify that they have been unable to trace him since early Monday morning, Sub-inspector Aleya Akhter of the station said.
Quoting the family friend, the SI told the Dhaka Tribune that 25 minutes after going for an early morning stroll from his house in Shyamoli area around 5am, Farhad made a phone call to her wife, Farida Akhter, to say that he was not feeling well.
Around 9:30am in the morning, Farhad called his wife again to tell that he has been kidnapped and the kidnappers are asking for Tk35 lakh ransom.
Also Read- ‘Government behind Farhad Mazhar’s abduction’
His phone has been switched off since then.
Farida lodged the GD in this connection with the Adabor police station on Monday evening, Mohsin Ali, probationary sub-inspector of the station confirmed.
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RAB personnel are seen searching houses at KDA Approach street in Khulna city on Monday, July 3, 2017 Dhaka Tribune
Farida is the executive director of Ubinig, an NGO.
Biplob Kumar Sarkar, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Tejgaon Division), told the Dhaka Tribune that it was unusual for Farhad to take an early morning stroll.
“After speaking with family members, we were able to confirm that he never goes out so early generally. And we collected footages from CCTV feed around Farhad Mazhar’s house which showed he was not under duress at the time when he got out,” Biplob said.
Biplob, quoting family members, also said the family received multiple number of calls regarding ransom amount.
The Dhaka Tribune attempted to contact Farida over phone. A male received the phone and told our reporter that the family will not be able to comment on the incident at this moment.
Senior officials of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Tejgaon Division) and Adabor police have visited Farhad’s place in Shyamoli and spoken to Farida.
The 69-year-old has close ties with the country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
BNP leaders have been claiming that tens of thousands of their activists and supporters have been arrested by the government since 2014, when the party boycotted a controversial general election over fears it would be rigged.
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Uniformed RAB personnel are seen searching car's boot in Khulna city on Monday, July 3, 2017 Dhaka Tribune
There have also been allegations of so-called enforced disappearances -- where authorities detain people unofficially and hold them in secret prisons.
Kidnapping for ransom is relatively rare in Bangladesh, and rights activists urged the government to properly investigate Mazhar's disappearance to prove it was not involved.
"Such incidents happen repeatedly and the government's silence is deplorable," said Nur Khan Liton, a prominent rights activist, said while talking to the news agency AFP.