Rapid Action Battalion
|Parent agency||Bangladesh Police|
Rapid Action Battalion or RAB is an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police. It consists of members of the Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh and Bangladesh Ansar. It was formed on 26 March 2004, and commenced operations on 14 April 2004.
The Rapid Action Battalion has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The force has also been involved in several high profile crimes, including murder.Although rights group have described it as a "death squad," the US government officials in Bangladesh describe it as an "organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Rapid Action Battalion was formed on 12 July 2003 under the Armed Police Battalion (Amendment) Act, 2003. The act was passed through the amendment of Armed Forces Battalion Ordinance 1979. Each battalion of Rapid Action Battalion is commanded by Additional Deputy Inspector General rank officer or its equivalent in other forces. RAB cannot file cases with courts themselves but must be forward the cases to Bangladesh Police who will file the case with the court. RAB has faced criticism for alleged extrajudicial killings from its formation. In an editorial on 23 July 2004 The Daily Star wrote "reign it in before it turns into a monster." From 2004 to 2008 RAB had killed 1062 people. RAB has a media centre in Karwan Bazar.
RAB also has 14 battalion size field units spread all over the country. Among them, 5 are located in the capital Dhaka. The units are located as follows:
- RAB-1 : Uttara, Dhaka
- RAB-2 : Agargaon, Dhaka
- RAB-3 : Tikatuli, Dhaka
- RAB-4 : Mirpur, Dhaka
- RAB-5 : Rajshahi
- RAB-6 : Khulna
- RAB-7 : Chittagong
- RAB-8 : Barisal
- RAB-9 : Sylhet
- RAB-10 : Jatrabari, Dhaka
- RAB-11 : Narayanganj
- RAB-12 : Sirajganj
- RAB-13 : Rangpur
- RAB-14 : Mymensingh
Main activities and types of work done by RAB are:
Counter-Terrorism RAB apprehended numerous terrorism suspects during the course of their tenure.
Anti drugs RAB has been involved in the control of illegal substances such as Yaba, Phensidyle and Heroin.
Emergency help RAB provides immediate response for situations such as armed robbery and kidnappings.
National common or annual needs Many national needs are filled by RAB by providing extra duty during Eid-ul-Fitr, Puja, world Ijtema and Akheri Munazat, among other events. They also contribute resources during elections, such as the Narayangonj City Corporation Election.
Ranks and insignia
Because RAB is composed of officers and troops from Bangladesh Police and Bangladesh Armed Forces, it was necessary to attribute a common rank insignia to the RAB badges. Such insignia can be seen in the illustrations below.
The following is a table containing details of major arrests by the RAB according to their official website:
|Mufti Hannan||Assassination attempt of the Leader of the Opposition and present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Mufti Hannan was a top leader of Harkat-ul-Jihad||1 October 2005|||
|Pichchi Hannan||Terrorism||26 June 2004, later killed trying to escape|||
|Debashis||Accomplice to Pichchi Hannan||killed in crossfire, 24 June 2004|||
|Mollah Shamim||10 cases including three murders||killed in crossfire, 6 September 2004|||
|Shaheb Ali||Printing of Jihadi leaflets distributed during the 17 August 2005 Bombings||17 September 2005|||
|Shahabuddin||Extortion||Killed 26 October 2004|||
|Syed Monir Hossain||Several criminal offences, including two murders||killed in crossfire, 11 March 2005|||
|Shahjahan||5 charges including murder, rape and robbery||killed in crossfire, 12 January 2005|||
|Rafiqul Islam||Suicide squad member, Narayanganj JMB commander||27 December 2005|||
|Sumon Ahmed Majumder||Extortion||killed "in crossfire" (see BBC article)|||
|Ekramul Haque||Islamic Militancy||December 2005|||
|Hasibul||16 cases including 12 murder cases||26 January 2005, later killed attempting to escape|||
|Names Unknown||Weapon Creators, Killed over 10 People||Squadron Leader Sabbir Ahmed Khan and his friends caught the gang in May 2009|||
Although the RAB has been successful in apprehending several high-profile terrorists, including the infamous Bangla Bhai, Human Rights Watch has accused RAB of numerous deaths, which have been attributed to crossfire. In March 2010, the battalion leader claimed 622 deaths were due to 'crossfire', while some human rights organisations claimed that more than 1,000 extrajudicial killings were the product of the battalion. Further, there have been many reports of torture in connection with the battalion's activities.
Sixteen RAB-11 officials (sacked afterwards) including Lt Col (sacked) Tareque Sayeed, Major (sacked) Arif Hossain, and Lt Commander (sacked) Masud Rana were given death penalty for abduction, murder, concealing the bodies, conspiracy and destroying evidences in the Narayanganj Seven Murder case. Another nine RAB-11 officials were awarded jail terms of 7 to 17 years in the same case.
In 2017, a reporter from Swedish Radio recorded a high-ranking RAB officer explaining how the RAB selects people to kill, and how it kills people. They kill people who they suspect of serious crimes, but consider too difficult to convict in a trial or impossible to rehabilitate. He said, "If you find him - shoot and kill him, wherever he is. And then plant a weapon beside him." This officer says that people disappear this way every day, and that innocent people can disappear.
Limon Hossain, a college student at Jamaddarhat at Rajapur Upazila in Jhalakati, was shot at by RAB personnel near his house on 23 March 2011, triggering local and international outcry. His left leg had to be amputated as a result. The battalion filed two cases that day with the Rajapur police implicating Limon in an arms case and accusing him of obstructing police duties. The government finally decided to withdraw the cases against Limon on 9 July 2013, citing his need to return to a "healthy and normal life".
Families of the victims and witnesses blamed RAB for picking up 83 people while detective branch for 38, ‘law enforcers’ for 55 and plainclothes men for 20 others reported between January 2007 and August 2014, according to a report by human rights organisation Ain-o-Shalish Kendro (ASK). The report also said that at least 70 leaders and activists of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami fell victim to enforced disappearance while 37 others were activists of ruling Awami League.
On 5 February 2012 approximately at 1.00 a.m. Al Mukaddas (22), 4th year student of the Department of Al Fiqah and Mohammad Waliullah (23), a Masters candidate of Dawah and Islamic Studies Department of Islamic University, were allegedly arrested and disappeared by some persons who identified themselves as RAB-4 and DB Police members from Savar. Both were members of the Islamic student organization Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir and were allegedly detained by members of the RAB and the Detective Branch (DB) of the Bangladesh Police on 4 February 2012. They have not been heard from since and their whereabouts are unknown. The RAB has denied detaining the two men in a statement to a Bangladeshi newspaper. However, reports from several sources and a pattern of disappearances thought to have been conducted by RAB in recent months cast doubt on RAB's denial.
On 5 April 2013 at around 2:25am, members of Rapid Action Battalion-5 arrested Mr. Mohammad Anwarul Islam and Mosammat Nurjahan Begum of Angariapara village in Chapainawabganj from house number 175 of Bil-Shimla Moholla under Rajpara Police Station in Rajshahi district. Later, when family members contacted the RAB-5 office, RAB notified that Anwarul had never been arrested by them. An allegation of enforced disappearance was brought against the members of RAB by Anwarul’s family members.
Upon inquiry, it was found that Anwarul was a last year Master’s student of Mathematics department of Rajshahi College. Moreover, he was the Office Secretary of the Islami Chattra Shibir of Rajshahi district.
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