Salauddin Quader Chowdhury escaped armed attack in 1971, ordered by Ziaur Rahman

During the Liberation War, Maj Ziaur Rahman commissioned the killing of 22 “collaborators”, including Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and his father, said two freedom fighters at the International Crimes Tribunal-1 yesterday.

Maj Zia also designated a team to execute the killings, the two said.

Freedom fighters–SM Mahbub-Ul-Alam and Qazi Mohammad Nurul Absar–told this before the tribunal while testifying against Salauddin in the case filed in connection with his crimes against humanity.

Salauddin was in the dock during their depositions.

সাকা চৌধুরীর বিরুদ্ধে অভিযানের বিবরণ দিলেন দুই সাক্ষী

The witnesses told the tribunal that they conducted the operation to kill Salauddin together as he was “killing and torturing people” with the help of the Pakistani army, and their collaborators, the Al-Badr, Al-Shams and the Razakars.

Alam, 63 and Absar, 61, said they along with two other freedom fighters launched an attack on Salauddin in September, 1971, in Chittagong when Salauddin was coming out of a house in his car.

The two witnesses said they later heard from different sources that Salauddin sustained serious injuries while his driver was killed in the attack.

Major Zia was a sector commander and the chief of the Z-force during the Liberation War. He later became the president of Bangladesh and founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 1978.

Salauddin joined the BNP in the 90’s and is now a standing committee member of the party.

Both the prosecution witnesses yesterday gave detailed description of their operation against Salauddin.

They also described how student leader Mahbubul Alam was tortured to death at Salauddin’s Good’s Hill home in Chittagong during the Liberation War.

“After completion of my training Major Zia made me the commander of our 16-member team and handed over a hit list. The first name on the list was Fazlul Quader Chowdhury while the second one was his son Salauddin,” said SM Mahbub-Ul-Alam.

Alam was the 11th prosecution witness in the case.

Alam, a businessman, said as the Pakistani army began mass killings and had occupied half the Chittagong town on March 25, 1971, he went to Ramgar and met Major Zia.

“As per Major Zia’s directive, I went to Tripura in India for training. After completion of my training, he, then sector commander, directed us to make a 16-member team who knew Chittagong town well,” he added.

The freedom fighter said the name of their group was Bravo Company and “its number was eight”.

“Major Zia handed over to us a hit list including the name of Fazlul, Salauddin, Didar Mia, a Muslim League leader, and Sharafat Ullah. He also mentioned some places to conduct operations and gave weapons and some money,” he added.

Alam said after returning to Chittagong town they heard that the Pakistani army and collaborator forces, Al-Badr, Al-Shams and the Razakars, led by Salauddin were “massacring” people in Chittagong and in adjacent areas.

“A son of one Mozaffar told me that the Pakistani army led by Salauddin abducted Mozaffar and his brother whose locations were not known since then,” he added.

“We also heard that people were brought to Good’s Hill to be tortured and made to disappear under the leadership of Salauddin,” he continued.

Quoting one of his comrades, he said one Mahbub Alam was also tortured to death after “he was skinned alive” at Good’s Hill.

The freedom fighter said those who were critically injured after torture were sent to the home of doctor Chhami Uddin and those whose condition were even worse were made to go missing.

He said the sector commander’s headquarters was mounting pressure on them to do something about Salauddin.

“We planned to conduct an operation at the doctor’s home as we came to know that Salauddin will join a family programme there. As per our plan, we took position with fire arms in front of the house around 6:30pm on September 20,” he added.

“When Salauddin came out of the house, after staying there for around one hour, Aziz Uddin, son of Chhami, gave us the signal with a torch according to plan,” he added.

“Getting the signal we, the four-member team, attacked the car. Fazlul Haque sprayed the car with bullets from his Sten gun while Sourendra Nath Sen charged grenades and I opened fire with my revolver,” he added.

He said, “We left the place after the operation and later heard that Salauddin was crucially injured and his driver killed in the operation.”

Earlier in the day, Nurul Absar, the 10th witness, gave his statement before the tribunal.

Absar said Mahbub Alam, former Bangladesh Student Union president of Rangunia College unit, was his friend and they had planned together to protest the “massacres” being carried out by non-Bangalee people and their Pakistani supporters in Chittagong.

He said Mahbub was living at Khatunganj in Chittagong but he was incommunicado since June-July 1971.

“Later, I heard that a group of people including Salauddin, Yousuf Khan, Hamidul Quader Chowdhury alias Khoka, Maksud and Ziauddin kidnapped Mahbub from Khatunganj and tortured him at Good’s Hill,” he added.

“I heard that there was no skin left on Mahbub’s body as they forced him to lie on a wooden plank bristling with nails and put another plank on him and pressed it down,” he said.

Introducing himself as an organiser of the Liberation War, the now employee of a private firm said they decided to kill Salauddin as they heard that he regularly tortured freedom mongers at his Good’s Hill home.

A group of freedom fighters also returned from India with the list then.

“We also came to know that Salauddin sent the critically injured people to Chhami Uddin’s home secretly to know whether they will survive. Aziz Uddin, son of Chhami Uddin, was our friend. As he heard that freedom fighters planned to kill his father he sought security for his family from me,” he added.

“I told him that if he informed us when Salauddin will join their family programme, I will help him. At the end of September, he informed me that Salauddin will join their family programme,” he added.

“Getting the information I informed my commander, SM Mahbub-Ul-Alam, and we designed our plan to conduct an operation with two others,” he added.

“We took our position in front of Chhami Uddin’s home after Magrib prayers. As per our plan, I took position on the road and informed three others about the arrival of Salauddin with a Pakistani army officer. I heard the sound of the attack around 8:30pm and left the place immediately,” he added.

He said Aziz told them that Salauddin drove the car himself. That is why the firing was aimed at the driver seat.

“We learnt from newspapers the next day that Salauddin received splinter grenade injuries in his leg while his driver was killed in the operation. We also heard that Salauddin went abroad after the operation,” he added.

Defence counsels would cross-examine Nurul Absar today and SM Mahbub-Ul-Alam tomorrow.

Salauddin was produced before the court yesterday. He is facing 23 specific charges of crimes against humanity he allegedly committed during the Liberation War.

He is among four Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP leaders facing similar charges at Tribunal-1, the first of the two courts formed to deal with such crimes.

Meanwhile, the International Crimes Tribunal-2 yesterday recorded the cross examination of Abdul Momen, the first prosecution witness in the war crimes case against former BNP lawmaker Abdul Alim.

Defence counsels would resume the cross-examination today, as the court did not go into session after lunch yesterday.

The court did not go into session as father of Justice Obaidul Hassan, a member of the Tribunal-2, had died.

Witness Momen, a former student leader, testified before the tribunal on August 6. He had said then that the former BNP lawmaker had ordered the killing of nine Hindus of Khetlal upazila of Joypurhat during the Liberation War.

On June 11, the tribunal framed 17 charges of war crimes against Alim, which include genocide, murder of Bangalee civilians, and burying people alive during the war.