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Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Published : 14 Aug 2019 04:44 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 03:10 PM

The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and almost his entire family took place during the early hours of 15 August 1975, when a group of young Bangladesh Army personnel went into his residence and killed him in a coup d'état.

Major Syed Faruque Rahman, who would later become a colonel; Khandaker Abdur Rashid; Sharful Haque (Dalim); and Mohiuddin Ahmed along with A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, and S.H.M.B. Noor Chowdhury, all three majors in the Bangladesh Army and veterans of the Bangladesh Liberation War, planned to topple the government and establish a military government of their own. They were previously part of the opposition to the formation of BAKSAL, viewing the government as subservient to India and a threat to Bangladesh's military. 

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed, an Awami League cabinet minister under Mujib's government, agreed to take over the Presidency. However, Journalist Lawrence Lifschultz paints an alternate picture of the conspiracy, implicating Mostaq and the American Central Intelligence Agency as participants. In his book Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, he wrote that the "CIA station chief in Dhaka, Philip Cherry, was actively involved in the killing of Father of the Nation— Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." It is alleged that the chief of the army staff, Major General K M Shafiullah, and the Defence Intelligence Agency DGFI Air Vice Marshal, Aminul Islam Khan, were aware of the conspiracy.

In the early morning of 15 August 1975, the conspirators divided into four groups. One group, consisting of members of the Bengal Lancers of the First Armoured Division and 535th Infantry Division under Major Huda, attacked Mujib's residence. Correspondent for Anandabazar Patrika Sukharanjan Dasgupta, who described the Bangladesh Liberation War in Dhaka until 1974, writes in his book Midnight Massacre in Dacca that "the exact details of the massacre will always remain shrouded in mystery." 

He goes on to say, however, that the army platoon protecting the president's house offered no resistance. Sheikh Kamal, son of Mujib, was shot at the reception area on the ground floor. Meanwhile, Mujib was asked to resign and allowed time to consider his choice. He telephoned Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad, the new Chief of Military Intelligence. When Jamil arrived and ordered the troops back to the barracks, he was gunned down at the gate of the residence. Refusing to resign, Mujib was shot and killed.

Other occupants killed in the attack were Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, wife of Mujib, who was killed upstairs; Sheikh Nasser, younger brother of Mujib, who was killed in a lavatory; several servants of Mujib, who were also killed in lavatories; Sheikh Jamal, the second son of Mujib and an army officer; ten-year-old Sheikh Russel, the youngest son of Mujib; and two daughters-in-law of Mujib. Mujib's two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany at the time. After the coup, they took refuge with the Indian government and did not fly back to Bangladesh but India instead. Sheikh Hasina lived in New Delhi in a self-imposed exile before returning to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981.

Two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani, Mujib's nephew and a leader of the Awami League along with his pregnant wife, Dhanmondi, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, Mujib's brother-in-law. They also killed a minister of the government and thirteen of his family members on Mintu Road.

The fourth and most powerful group was sent towards Savar to repel the expected counter-attack by the security forces stationed there. After a brief fight and the loss of eleven men, the security forces surrendered.