Sacked major Syed Ziaul Haq ordered that blogger and writer Avijit Roy be killed at Amar Ekushey Book Fair at Bangla Academy on the Dhaka University campus, his accomplice has said.
Md Abu Siddiq Sohel, alias Sakib alias Sajid alias Shahab, revealed the information in his confessional statement to the court of Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on November 6, a day after his arrest from Mohammadpur in Dhaka.
Avijit was fatally attacked on the university campus on February 26, 2015 as he left Ekushey Book Fair with his wife, Rafida Ahmed Bonya.
Sohel, a member of banned militant outfit Ansarullah al-Islam, said they had been following the writer since February 24.
Sohel said Zia first planned to kill Avijit at the latter’s residence. But the commander of the militant group changed his mind and ordered his accomplices to kill him at the book fair.
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He told the court: “Avijit visited the residence of one of his relatives on Indira Road. Our big brother (Maj Zia) ordered that Avijit be killed at the book fair right after he had left the home.”
In planning the murder, Sohel said an Ansarullah al-Islam sniper cell was split into two groups.
One group - dubbed as “Intel group” - began following Avijit and provided intelligence about him, while the other was to directly take part in the killing according to Zia’s instructions. Sohel was in the Intel group.
“We went to Granthamela [book fair] on February 25 but came back after failing to trace him there on that day,” he said.
In his confessional statement, Sohel also disclosed the names of top leaders of the militant group, including Zia, Selim, Abir, Hassan, Saimon alias Shahriar alias Mozammel Hossain, and Mukul Rana alias Sharif.
Saimon was arrested three days ago by a team of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police. A CTTC official said Saimon used to lead the Intel group.
Sohel said: “Sitting on a bench in front of the Shudhoshor [book] stall, I had been waiting [for signals]. After some time, Saimon Bhai (brother) informed us that Avijit is in the book fair. And we, too, saw him standing before the Avipray stall.”
Sohel said they took up a position in the Teacher-Student Centre area on the Dhaka University campus after Saimon had talked to Abir and Hassan.
“When Avijit came out of the fair venue around 8pm, four members of our team hacked him with a machete. They sped away from the spot after hacking his wife as she came to his aid,” he said.
The arrestee added that Sharif was leading the team to execute the plans, while Zia and Selim and he were guarding them.
“After reaching home, we saw the reports of his death on television,” he said.
Sohel admitted that they had been surveilling him “for quite some time”. On February 22, the militants went to a restaurant in Dhanmondi 27 area from the book fair and took up positions around the restaurant.
He added that their plans on that day went in vein, with Avijit quickly leaving the restaurant after taking food.
Sohel said he joined the Ansarullah al-Islam militant squad in 2014 with the help of one Rezaul Karim, and that he had been named Sajid alias Shahab by the organisation.
The article was originally published on Bangla Tribune