The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Police glare on criminals from across the border

Calcutta, Dec. 25: Police have arrested three persons in connection with the Christmas plunder of Maliapota Catholic church in Tehatta and suspect the raid was carried out by a gang comprising criminals from Nadia and Meherpur and Rajshahi districts in Bangladesh.

Nadia police picked up Latif, 25, from Chapra, Subol Ghosh, 24, from Sompukur and Azibur, 26, from Thanerpara areas this afternoon.

“There were over 1,300 people in the church and most of them saw the criminals. From the initial description of the criminals by the witnesses and the information we received from our local sources, it became evident that Latif, Azibur and Subol were involved in the incident,” Murshidabad range deputy inspector-general D.P. Tarenia said. “Police teams separately raided the places where the three had taken shelter and arrested them,” he added.

Investigators quoting from the statement of church chief Father T.J. Abraham said about 20 criminals armed with bombs, pipeguns and revolvers raided the church while midnight mass was on.

Tarenia said the arrested trio has told interrogators that Milan Sheikh, Ziauddin Alam and Refiqual Islam — all three from Bangladesh — were the brains behind the attack.

Investigators said they have collected the names of 12 suspects, apart from the arrested trio. Sources said five of them are from Nakasipara, Chapra, Tehatta and Taherpur in Nadia. “The seven others are from Meherpur and Rajshahi. They used to thrive on lifting cattle, but have graduated to robbery and looting,” a Tehetta policeman said.

The church, standing barely five km from the international border, is located in an area where people walk into Bangladesh and return without being challenged by security forces.

Chapra police said Sheikh and Alam had been arrested earlier for robbery in Fulia and Bagamara in Nadia and were pushed back across the border.

The district police admitted that in the beginning of the year there was a spurt in dacoities, but this is the first time the robbers have targeted a place of worship.

Tarenia said it is difficult to verify the identity of Bangladeshi criminals. “Eyewitnesses could make out from their dialect that they are Bangladeshis. It is impossible to crosscheck their names and addresses without the cooperation of the Bangladesh police,” he said.

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