Criminals are hiding weapons and explosives inside cameras and sound amplifiers before smuggling them into areas where union parishad elections are set to be held.
Law enforcers found about the new technique being adapted by criminals when they were tapping into a recent phone conversation of a Dhaka-based listed criminal as part of their surveillance activities.
An official from an intelligence agency, seeking anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune they found that the criminal was speaking to a close associate of a ruling party-backed chairman candidate in a southern district.
“You give Tk40,000, I am sending you four cameras. But you have to send it back the day after the election. I have no sound box right now; but if you need it, just call this number you will get what you want,” the senior official quoted the criminal as saying during the phone conversation.
The use of words like “camera” and “sound box” raised flags, and further investigation revealed that the words were codes for weapons and explosives respectively, the official said.
He added criminals had used these code words to successfully send four illegal arms to Bhola and two more weapons to Pirojpur.
Efforts were now on to identify which gangs were using similar secretive methods to communicate with union parishad candidates across the country, the official said.
Most sources of the weapons supply was centred in the capital, according to sources, who also said activities of top criminals have also seen a spike ahead of the polls.
A well-placed source told the Dhaka Tribune that some candidates were hiring out-of-district armed criminals ahead of election day.
The Dhaka Tribune spoke to several police superintendents from districts where union parishad polls are scheduled to be held. They said field-level law enforcers have been instructed to beef up their drives to recover illegal weapons from the election areas.
The inspector general of police, AKM Shahidul Hoque, also said directives have been issued to increase drives to recover illegal arms and take action against arms dealers. Based on intelligence reports, actions were being taken against suspects who might cause trouble during the election, he added.
“Police along with other law enforcement agency officials are staying alert to ensure safe elections,” the IGP added.
Arms for rent
According to reports from several intelligence agencies, a large number of illegal arms are being smuggled into the country, mostly from India, centring the union parishad elections. The illegal arms are entering through 48 different border points, mainly through Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj borders.
An intelligence agency report suggested that the weapons are then being smuggled to different districts in trucks that carry fruits or vegetables, or on trains.
With high demands, the prices of weapons have also gone up recently, according to sources.
At the borders, criminals are buying 7.65mm pistols for Tk25,000-Tk30,000 and later selling those in different districts for Tk60,000-Tk70,000. The price for 9mm pistols near the border is Tk30,000-Tk35,000, while the cost goes up to Tk70,000-Tk80,000 further inland.
Anticipating violent attacks, union parishad candidates are also reportedly hiring armed shooters for a daily rate of Tk10,000-Tk15,000. This allows the candidates deniability even if the criminals get arrested.
Several phases of election would be held at 4,275 union parishads across the country up until June. The first phase would be held today in 721 union parishads in 31 districts.