Two Islamist radicals condemned to death in the murder of a publisher fled from a Dhaka court on Sunday noon after their guards were incapacitated with chemical spray, police said.
The two convicts – Moinul Hasan Shamim alias Samir alias Imran, and Abu Siddiq Sohel – were among eight militants of banned militant outfit Ansar al Islam sentenced to death in February last year for murdering publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan in 2015.
Two motorbike riders came in and blinded the cops by spraying their faces when the officers were carrying out the convicts, according to witnesses.
"None of them were cuffed, or in a bulletproof vest either," one of them told The Business Standard while speaking on condition of anonymity. "After riding on the bikes, they rushed towards the Ray Shaheb Bazar intersection in old Dhaka."
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has ordered a nationwide manhunt for the escapees and has offered a Tk20 lakh bounty for information leading to their capture.
"We have formed a committee to find whether there is any negligence of the police. The borders have already sealed so that they cannot escape the country," he told The Business Standard.
Jasim Uddin, deputy commissioner of the Prosecution Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), said the escape was performed by four people riding two motorcycles.
Abdullah Abu, Dhaka Metropolitan public prosecutor, told reporters at the court premises that the militants could not have escaped if they were cuffed.
Harun-or-Rashid, additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and police's Detective Branch chief, said they have set up checkpoints at different areas of the capital.
"Our teams are working to arrest them. We hope to catch them very soon," he added.
In a separate development on Sunday afternoon, the Supreme Court has ordered the authorities to beef up securities at subordinate courts across the country, according to Supreme Court Spokesperson Mohammad Saifur Rahman.
Ansar al Islam is a local extremist organisation affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). After 2013, it came to the spotlight after a series of machete attacks and killings of secular bloggers, atheist writers and freethinkers.
The government responded with a nationwide crackdown on Islamist extremists.
Earlier on 23 February 2014, three Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants were whisked away in a daring daylight attack at Trishal while they were being taken to Mymensingh for a court hearing from Gazipur.
They are Salauddin Salehin Sunny, Rakibul Hasan and Jahidul Islam Mizan. Rakibul Hasan was re-arrested within 24 hours and was later killed in a reported "gunfight" with police. Sunny is still on the run as Mizan was arrested in India and now in Delhi prison.