UNB, Bagerhat :
Frequent attacks by pirates and forest robbers have put both lives and livelihood of the members of the fishermen community in grave peril in the Bay of Bengal and the Sundarbans.
About two lakh fishermen have to remain always in a state of panic as over 20 infamous gangs of forest robbers and pirates continue their operations in the Bay and the Sundarbans.
It is getting difficult to deal with these forest robbers and pirates who are relentlessly committing criminal activities despite drives conducted frequently by the law enforcement agencies.
On February 17 this year, robbers kidnapped 40 fishermen along with 10 trawlers at Katka in the Sundarbans under Sharankhola upazila of Bagerhat.
Coast Guard Mongla zone staff officer Lt Commander M Mohiuddin Majumder said members of notorious gangs ‘Rahman Bahini’ and ‘Jahangir Bahini’ swooped on the trawlers while the fishermen were fishing in the early morning.
The gang members looted fish and nets worth about Tk 1 crore from 50 trawlers and demanded Tk 50,000 for release of each of the fishermen. Earlier, a fisherman was killed and eight others were injured when robbers opened fire on them in the Raimangal River in the Sundarbans on Friday.
In April last year, robbers killed 27 fishermen after abduction and dumped the bodies into the Bay.
Later, law enforcers recovered floating bodies of the fishermen from the sea.
Accusing the armed robbers of extorting money from them at gunpoint, many fishermen said if the criminals fail to realise tolls, they attack fishermen’s boats either to loot fishing materials or to abduct them for ransom.
To catch fish in the Bay, fishermen, in many cases, have to collect tokens from the robbers after paying tolls.
Expressing serious concern over their security in the Bay, M Farid Hossain, a fisherman, said they do not feel safe in the Bay due to frequent attacks by the robbers.
“I’m not interested in catching fish in the sea,” he added.
The frightened fisherman said he is looking for alternative source of income to survive with his wife and children.
Echoing Farid, Dulal Forazi, president of Sharankhola Upazila Matsyajibi Samity, said members of 25 pirate and forest robber gangs are running their activities openly in different areas of the Sunbarbans and the Bay.
Thousands of fishermen fall prey to their attacks every year, he said, adding that the criminals often abduct the innocent fish catchers for ransom.
Failing to realise the ransom, the robbers not only kill the abducted fishermen but also throw their bodies into the sea, Dulal Forazi mentioned.
Families of the fishermen have to spend time amid panic until their return from the sea, he added.
Commanding officer of Rab-8 Barisal Lt Col Faridul Alam said some 55 robbers, including 12 ringleaders, were killed in gunfights with law enforcers over the last four years.
He said seven robbers were killed in 2010, 18 in 2011, 17 in 2012 and 13 in 2013 during drives conducted by them.
The deceased ringleaders of the robber gangs are Dakter Manik, Krishna Sagar, Motallab, Julfiqur, Sohag, Zihad, Nabakumar, Gama, Meghna Zakir, Shahidul, Mahbub alias Saijja and Amjad.
Fishermen said following the deaths of Motallab, Zulfiqur, Shohag and Zihad, activities of the gangs led by them remained halted for some days.
However, their followers later took the helm of the gangs, re-organised themselves and restarted criminal activities.
The fish catchers also said 12 notorious robbers are running gangs comprised of their 600 accomplices in the eastern and western parts of the Sunbarbans, adding that some other gangs, comprised of several hundred robbers, are also active in the Bay.
UNB, Bagerhat :