It all started with two ordinary yellow envelopes, delivered by regular post to Superintendent of Lalmonirhat district jail Kishore Kumar Nag and Deputy Commissioner Md Abu Zafor a week ago.
When roughly translated from Bangla, the message read, "Our fellow members are staying in your prison, and we will take them away very soon." Similar threats came again on Saturday through phone calls made anonymously to the same two officials.
A day later, Brigadier General AKM Mostafa Kamal Pasha, inspector general (IG) of prisons, directed all prison authorities across the country to remain on high alert in the wake of the recent threats that militants will be snatched away from Lalmonirhat Prison.
He also directed that a close watch be kept on the movement of militants, top terrorists, people accused in the BDR mutiny case, and individuals connected with other sensitive cases.
Responding to a query, Deputy Commissioner Abu Zafor told The Business Standard that the caller claimed to represent a militant outfit. "We have already informed the jail authority about the call and also filed a general diary with Lalmonirhat Sadar Police Station," he added.
Meanwhile, Colonel Abrar Hossain, additional inspector general of prisons said, "A miscreant group recently threatened to snatch prisoners from the Lalmonirhat jail authority. We raised the security of jails across the country following the threat."
"The Prison Directorate, on Sunday, issued a letter regarding the matter, containing instructions from the IG of prisons to all the jails. It also directed the creation of a strike force [in every prison] as a precautionary measure against any attack," he added.
The letter also contained 18 instructions to foil possible attacks, he added.
Sources from the police said the threatening calls–which were apparently made using a Teletalk phone number–actually came from a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number from abroad.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTC)–which have been involved in counter-militant operations for years–have already acknowledged the issue and launched an effort to unveil the mystery surrounding the threats.
Mohammed Saiful Islam, deputy commissioner of Counter Terrorism Investigation division said, "We are looking into the matter to learn whether the calls were made by militants or not. We have the phone number, and we already launched an investigation."
In an intelligence report on Monday, the Special Branch of Lalmonirhat district police recommended to the authorities concerned that twenty militant prisoners–including Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) members–who are currently under trial, be shifted to the High Security Jail in Gazipur's Kashimpur Jail.
Lalmonirhat's Superintendent of Police Abida Sultana, meanwhile, said the police have already taken necessary steps to foil any such attempt.
Kishore Nag, jail superintendent of Lalmonirhat, said, "We have yet to get any order to transfer the twenty militant prisoners to the high security jail in Kashimpur." When asked about the security measures following the threat he declined to comment on the issue.
According to the Department of Prisons, around 556 alleged members of different militant outfits are currently being kept at different prisons across the country.
Since receiving the threat, the department of prisons has beefed up security and instructed that archway metal detectors be installed at every entry point of the prisons across the country.
The letter, issued by the Department of Prisons, further read, "Prisons are sensitive institutions. It is of great responsibility for the officers and employees of all levels of the prisons to be strict against any accident or escape of prisoners."
"Recently, there has been evidence of lax security at some prisons. In this situation, some steps should be taken to ensure the security of prisons," it read.
In the letter, each prison was instructed to form a strike force–comprised of a deputy jailer, a chief prison guard and five jail guards–and always be ready to foil possible attacks.
At the outer gate of every prison, the guards must wear bulletproof jackets and helmets, metal detectors must be used to check arrivals, armed sentries must be deployed on duty, and the security of weapons and arsenal must be ensured.
The IG of prisons also wrote that necessary drills should be organised to ensure quick collection of arms and ammunition from the prison arsenal, secure the boundary wall around the prison and check the alarm system.
He directed the police administration to keep in touch with the authorities of jails where such militants are kept.