The top terror of Dhaka's underworld hired a hitman, flew out of the country to Dubai half a month before the killing took place, travelled to Oman to pay a visit to a holy shrine, and then got caught, to be brought back to Bangladesh.
Such an extradition from Oman is rare, probably the first of its kind, according to a top Bangladesh police official, as it required a herculean effort and consistency of course.
The cross-border manhunt started after the name of the accused, Suman Sikder alias Musa, cropped up in the confessional statement by a suspect in the assassination of Dhaka Awami League leader Jahidul Islam Tipu.
Detectives of Dhaka Metropolitan Police came to know that Musa left Dhaka for Dubai on 12 March this year and had been staying in the United Arab Emirates. After the assassination on 24 March, the hitman confirmed him over phone that the job had been done.
Prior to Tipu killing, Musa had already earned a name in Dhaka's underworld as a member of several terror groups. Police said Musa has as many as 11 cases against him with different police stations in the capital.
After the Tipu murder case, detectives notified the Interpol's correspondence desk at Police Headquarters in Dhaka about Musa. But the chances of bringing him back to Dhaka were slim since there is no mutual legal arrangement between Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates on extraditing a criminal.
In 2019, police claimed that Bangladeshi top terror Zeesan alias Ali Akbar Chowdhury had been detained in Dubai. But the expected extradition did not take place.
On 8 May, Musa travelled to Oman and Dhaka notified the Interpol desk in Muscat. The Oman visit opened a window of opportunity for Bangladeshi law enforcers as they said Muscat was more responsive in apprehending the suspect.
"As we approached the Omani authorities, the Oman Royal Police and Interpol's Muscat desk sought the details of the allegations against Musa. We even had to translate a part of the confessional statement that suggested Musa's link with the murder in English and sent it to them," Assistant Superintendent of Police of Dhaka Interpol desk Mohammad Fayez Uddin told The Business Standard.
A closing window
On 8 May, Musa entered Oman from neighbouring UAE through a land port. He had a one-month Omani tourist visa.
In Oman, he visited the tomb of Prophet Ayub in Salalah – a city known for its banana plantations, Arabian Sea beaches and waters teeming with sea life. Based on the information provided by Dhaka, Omani police identified him while he was visiting the religious site in Al Qara mountains.
Sensing that he was under the police radar, Musa subsequently cut short his Oman tour, according to the DMP source.
"He was in a rush to get back to Dubai, but was arrested by Omani police just an hour before he could cross the border. Had he not got arrested then and managed to cross the border, it would have been very difficult to bring him back from Dubai," a police official told TBS.
On 17 May, the Interpol desk in Muscat confirmed to Dhaka about his arrest.
The notification caused an unusual stir at the rather staid Interpol desk in Dhaka. Officials got busy in readying a team and getting the paperwork completed.
On 5 June, a three-member police team comprising Assistant Superintendent of Police of Dhaka Interpol desk Mohammad Fayez Uddin, Additional Deputy Commissioner of detective branch (DB, Motijheel division) Shahidur Rahman and Additional Deputy Commissioner Md Rafiqul Islam left Dhaka for Oman.
The team said they were not allowed to carry handcuffs on the flight. The Omani police said the accused could not be handcuffed during immigration.
However, prior to making it to the airport, there were other issues which got in the way of the extradition process.
Apart from Dubai, Dhaka currently does not have any deal with Muscat that allows the exchange of accused or convicts.
"Interpol insists on handovers of individuals whose offence might lead to a minimum of six months of imprisonment, but not a death penalty," said a police official who was in the three-member team. "But for Musa, the murder committed on his order means the highest death penalty, or a lifetime at least."
The official said the authorities managed to convince the Omani police of the nature of the case against Musa.
"We had to talk to the Oman Royal Police and Muscat Interpol several times even beyond their office hours. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh embassy in Muscat lent a hand in bringing back the murder accused," he added.
On 9 June, the team finally made its way to Muscat airport with the accused, his hands zip-tied. The police officials had to untie him on the Bangladesh Biman flight to Dhaka.