“They had secured permission from the Konabari police [to land in Konabari], but the pilot landed here, disembarked the family and left immediately,” Jailer Anwar Hossain said. “It was a mistake.”
Guards immediately cordoned off the aircraft once it touched down.
The landing created concern as officials feared that terrorists were attempting to free militants from the maximum-security prison. Bangladesh has imprisoned numerous extremists in the past few months following a series of deadly terrorist attacks.
In April, Mufti Abdul Hannan, an Islamist extremist leader, was executed at the prison after being convicted of attacking the British High Commissioner with a grenade in 2004, as well as for a number of attacks that killed hundred in the early 2000s.
Among the attacks he planned or participated in were the 1999 bombing of an Udichi Cultural event in Jessore Bangladesh, the 2001 Ramna Batamul bombings, the 2001 bombing of a Communist Party of Bangladesh rally, and the 2004 bombing of an Awami League rally.
According to prison officials, the Kashimpur Central Jail guards detained five passengers, members of the same family, but after a short while, the chopper, piloted by Wing Commander Sohel Latif, a retired air force officer, took off again.
“This happened by mistake but the incident made us concerned as there are intelligence reports that terrorists could launch attacks to free militant inmates from this jail,” said Brigadier General Syed Iftekhar Uddin, the Inspector General of Prisons.
“Meghna Aviation has said sorry. They said it happened due to poor visibility,” Uddin added.
According to its website, Meghna Aviation “is a helicopter transport service provider specialized in hosting the highest quality non-schedule commercial helicopter flights within the aerial territory of Bangladesh. Presently, it is ranked as one of the leading enterprises in the aviation industry. Meghna Aviation is now regularly providing helicopter flight services to a variety of agencies involving government, foreign embassy, national and multi-national corporate groups and individual clients all over the country.”
The prison warden said the helicopter company had apologized for the error. The aircraft was headed to a wedding reception in a village nearby. The helicopter had been charted by
Billal Hossain, a Bangladeshi expatriate living in Malaysia, to attend a relative’s wedding.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said they had investigated the issue and decided to let local police handle it.
“Helicopters are permitted to operate in a specific area. A police permission is needed if they want to fly beyond it. And they do so, if their clients want it,” said CAAB Director Kazi Iqbal Karim.
The pilot denies the official account.
“That is not what happened. I landed the helicopter 1100 yards (3300 feet) away from the prison grounds. The place where we were going to land was waterlogged, so I had to put the helicopter down in a safe location,” Latif said.
“I have been flying for over 30 years, I would not make a mistake. I landed the helicopter in the school knowing full well where everything was. It was not a prison. Things have been blown out of proportion by the media.”