15 August 1975: Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmed, the only person who came to help - and he paid the price

Sheikh Mujib's last phone call was to Colonel Jamil

Sheikh Mujib himself was quick to react. First he telephoned the Rakkhi Bahini headquarters, but in the absence of their CO Brigadier Nur Zaman and Colonel Sabihuddin, he could not get through to any senior officer. In desperation Sheikh Mujib phoned General Shafiullah, the Chief of the Army Staff, and Brigadier Mashorul Huq, his Military Secretary, asking them to send help immediately. The last call was made to 39-year-old Colonel (later Brigadier) Jamil Uddin Ahmed, Director of Military Intelligence, who Sheikh Mujib had specially selected for the job a fortnight earlier.

  • Jamil Uddin Ahmed Jamil Uddin Ahmed (1 Feb 1936 - 15 Aug 1975) Bir Uttam. Bangladesh Army Officer. Promoted to Director of Military Intelligence to President Sheikh Mujib two weeks before he was killed in the early hours of 15 August 1975 along with Sheikh Mujib and many of his family members. Died aged 39 years old. Wife Anjuman Ara Jamil was MP for Kushtia, Meherpur and Chuadanga. Left behind four daughters.

Repatriated officer

Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad received his army training at the Pakistan Military Academy and became one of the few Bengali army officers in the then Pakistan Army. During the 1971 Sangram (War) Col. Jamil, then 35 years old, was kept hostage in Pakistan and became a repatriated officer.

Jamil Bhai, myself and the few Bengali officers who were in Pakistan in those days had a regular liaison among ourselves. That was the time when Bengali nationalism was at its budding stage. As members of the majority of the population of Pakistan, we saw it the hard way how small our representations had been in the armed forces. Whenever we met, we used to talk about this. Jamil Bhai's sense of nationalism was the strongest among us and at times he would burst out in anger and desperation.

General K. M. Shafiullah, who trained with Col Jamil at PMA, remembers the patriotic figure

Col. Jamil’s integrity and professionalism as a career army officer led him to be appointed military secretary to President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in independent Bangladesh. He was promoted to the role of Director of Directorate of Forces Intelligence (DFI) and tasked with providing protection to the President of Bangladesh.

During the liberation war, we were kept hostage in Pakistan. When the war was over and we were about to be repatriated, the Pakistan Army offered my father with higher rank and additional facilities as he was a senior officer of the Inter-service Intelligence, but he refused, saying, 'I want to go back to my country and serve'.

Daughter Afrozaa Jamil ‘Konka’

There are people one works with who do not create any impression. They are just the run of the mill type individuals. One forgets them once they are separated. But then there are a few, very few perhaps, whom you never forget, whom you love to remember and respect, for things done by them in the call of duty. Or even otherwise. Likewise there are dates you remember and the events associated with them-good, bad, indifferent or whatever. In this recapitulation I want to write about an extraordinary, courageous, bold and brave person who had set the rare example of laying down his life for trying to do his assigned duty.

He was a handsome, amiable, friendly, extremely gregarious individual. He had a smiling face and pleasing personality. He had a high sense of dignity, honour. To him duty was first and it was last. He proved this in the small hours of morning of 15 August 1975 by sacrificing his life while trying to save that of our great leader, the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

...I worked with Col. Jamil in 1974, for a brief period, before I left for the US in the Fall of 1974. I found him a kind, compassionate, humane and caring person. He would go round our offices, share jokes, have tea. There was a permanent smile on his face. He was kind to the junior staff. He got along with everybody in that sensitive office, where in 1974 he was the only non civilian officer. He enjoyed the full trust and affection of Bangabandhu and his colleagues in the PMO.

Syed Abdus Samad, Executive Chairman, Board of Investment

[Colonel Jamil was] A man of extraordinary character.

Enayetullah Khan, Editor of Dhaka Courier and Editor in Chief of United News of Bangladesh (UNB)

Col. Jamil was married to Anjuman Ara Jamil, who later became a Member of Parliament for Kushtia, Meherpur and Chuadanga. The couple had three daughters: Tehmina, Afrozaa Jamil ‘Konka’, and Fehmida. They were expecting a fourth child (Karishma) in 1975.

Informs General Shafiullah and others after receiving SOS call from President Mujib

In the dawn of 15 August 1975, around 4.45am, President Sheikh Mujib rang Col. Jamil’s house and informed him that he and his family members had been attacked and his home was surrounded. He asked him to come and save him straightaway. Then the line went dead.

Sheikh Mujib: "I am in danger. Who knows who have attacked me. Jamil, save me!"

Col. Jamil: "Yes sir, I am coming right away."

Bangabandhu pleads to Colonel Jamil to save him

Jamil responded quickly. He had spent a restless night the day before as his wife Anjuman Ara Jamil was ill. However, after receiving Sheikh Mujib's distress call Jamil rang senior officers, including Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Shafiullah, and told them to send in the troops. He also rang the Rakkhi Bahini.

I am going to house no 32, you send in force.

Colonel Jamil informs General K. M. Shafiullah

Col. Jamil then ordered the Presidential Guard Regiment (PGR), charged with defending the President, to head towards Road 32 immediately.

Last moment with family

When Anjuman asked him if he was "really going", Colonel Jamil replied back instantly that it was his moral duty to save his leader.

Bangabandhu's life is at stake, I have to go.

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We used to live in Ganobhaban at that time. In the early morning I woke up to whispers – my parents were talking to each other.

I saw my father get dressed in civil uniform; he quickly got down the stairs, and we followed him.

Daughter Afrozaa Jamil Konka, then only 12-years-old, vividly recall her parent’s last conversation in the master bedroom in the dawn of August 15

Col. Jamil threw a dressing gown over his pyjamas, picked up his loaded revolver and tried to call Sheikh Mujib again, but the line was down.

Calmly holstering his service revolver, Col. Jamil ordered the PGR to march towards Bangabandhu's house. He wanted to go with the convoy but there wasn’t enough jeeps to take the troops so he told the troops to march ahead and jumped into his red Nissan Prince - others say red Volkswagen jeep - and hurried to Dhanmondi house so he could come to the President's aid.

Before leaving he told his wife to "take good care of my daughters".

Before he got into the car, Mrs Jamil asked him one last time, "Do you really have to go?" Col Jamil replied, "Are you crazy? Bangabandhu is in danger and I won't go!" He lit a cigarette, drank a glass of water and told his wife, "Take good care of my daughters."

Jamil Uddin Ahmed's final request to his wife before he mounted his jeep and headed off into the darkness

Konka and her mother walked behind the car and stared till the car disappeared in the darkness of the night.

When we turned round, one of the guards at Ganobhaban gate told my mum, 'Madam, you let him go!'

Konka

The family never saw Col Jamil again.

On a night when conspiracy was afoot and uncertainty gripped the city, and with the country's leadership seemingly paralysed, Col. Jamil did not shrink from doing his duty.

Enayetullah Khan

Gunned down in front of Sobhanbagh Masjid on Mirpur Road

Arriving in front of the Sobhanbagh Masjid (mosque) on Mirpur Road, only few hundred metres from the house, Colonel Jamil found that the PGR convoy had halted. He demanded to know the reason and was told that there were army units ahead and that there was gunfire.

A lot of trouble ahead, sir.

Replied the soldier, who was standing before a barricade, which included tanks

There followed a sharp argument.

I am Col. Jamil, obey my command, remove the barricade and let the PGR convoy move.

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We have orders to shoot anyone who passes this way.

Officers threaten Colin Jamil Uddin Ahmed

Colonel Jamil tried to convince the troops to march forward, even though he was aware that they were most probably posted there to intercept him. Then realising that time was running out, Colonel Jamil got into his jeep and prepared to drive into Road 32 himself in defiance of the troop's warning. He'd been held hostage in Pakistan during 1971 Muktijuddho so such volatile situation held no fear for him. His integrity and professionalism would not allow him to stand back like his seniors and watch the massacre of Sheikh Mujib and his dynasty. However, as Colonel Jamil got into his jeep the troops gunned him down. One down - more to follow, they thought.

In another version of event, Major Bazlul Huda is accussed of killing Colonel Jamil after a Subeder-Major refused to shoot him. Col. Jamil's driver Ainuddin survived the attack.

Col Jamil remained undeterred. He walked to the barricade and asked a Subeder-Major, who was manning the barricade, to let them pass.

Sure that he had almost convinced the Subeder-Major, Col Jamil walked back to his car and told his driver Ainuddin to start driving.

"Sir, please don't go," Ainuddin replied.

"Get down, if you are scared, and let me drive," Jamil said.

By that time Major Bazlul Huda turned up from the dark and said, "Who is this?"

"This is Col Jamil," he said.

According to Col's Jamil's driver, Ainuddin, Huda wasted no time and told the Subeder-Major: "Shoot him!"

The Subeder refused to obey Huda's command, he said, "No sir, I can't'."

Huda then took up a gun and rained a barrage of bullets at the back of Col Jamil's car; Jamil said Laa ilaha illallah thrice and embraced a hero's death. Ainuddin ran for his life, leaving the imam of Sobhanbagh, the lone civilian witness, behind.

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The valiant patriot was shot dead as he sat in his jeep and embraced martyrdom trying to save the leader whom he had, like many others, sworn to protect. It was the steadfast adherence to his principles that guided Col. Jamil in the final moments of his life. On a night when many brave souls hesitated, Jamil did not waver. It was the supreme test of courage and honour - and he passed with flying colours.

Enayetullah Khan

Everyone failed him [i.e. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] in his hour of need. Only days, even hours, earlier, almost everybody was swearing undying fealty to him. When the moment of reckoning, came, no one came forth to save the life of the man who had saved the collective life of the nation through leading it to freedom.

...No one came forth. No one! But one did, and paid for his courage with his life.

Colonel Jamil, soon to be brigadier and chief of Defence Forces Intelligence, was awakened by a distress call from the founding Father-President of the Republic. Imagine those grinding seconds and minutes of sheer helplessness. Bangabandhu had already tried soliciting assistance from the Chief of Army Staff, General Shafiullah had, in one of those moments of supreme irony, expressed his inability to help. The Rakkhi Bahini, having developed a reputation as a force loyal to the political government, did not come forth to resist the coup. Indeed, there persists the feeling that the Rakkhi Bahini was intimidated on that dark day, as were so many others. Brave people everywhere were subdued, their bravery dissipated. Hours after the carnage at 32 Dhanmondi, the chiefs of the armed services went public with their oaths of loyalty to the usurper regime of Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed.

The story of Brigadier General Jamil (Bir Uttam) needs to be told over and over again. If loyalty to the system, to the head of state, is a principled part of human behaviour, Jamil proved it through sacrificing his life for his President. He was military secretary to Bangabandhu. When the bullets started raining down on his residence, President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, by then thoroughly aware of the danger, frantically called Jamil. The Brigadier General was decisive.

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I have not known of a second individual who had laid down his life for Bangabandhu on that fateful night/morning. Bangabandhu was not very security conscious. He would often say: Who would kill me in Bangladesh? And yet killed he was on the 15th of August 1975, by a group of misguided and criminal military officers. Brigadier Jamil will go down in history as the only one who had tried to prevent the carnage and the disaster that befell Bangladesh on that night.

Syed Abdus Samad

Ganobhaban officers reassure family all is well

For Anjuman Ara and her three young daughters the agony continued as they still did not have any definitive news about her husband. Between 6.30 – 7.00 am she turned on the radio to hear Major Dalim announce the passing of Sheikh Mujib. Hearing that bombshell, Anjuman called the Ganobhaban office several times. Each time she was reassured by the the person on the other line that her husband "is around".

Mrs Jamil called the Ganobhaban office several times and whoever answered it said, "Jamil bhai is around, don't worry."

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Few hours later, at 11am, a disconsolate Ainuddin turned up at the Jamil household.

He was crying. My mother asked him where he has left my father.

Distraught, Ainuddin said, "I told sir many a time not to go there, but he did not listen to me." Ainuddin ran out of the house.

We still did not know what happened to my father.

Konka

General Shafiullah informs family of death & Brigadier General Khaled Mosharraf retrieval of dead body

It was not till the afternoon that the family learnt about Colonel Jamil's dreadful fate. About 2pm a call came from General Shafiullah himself. Anjuman answered the phone.

Bhabi, Jamil bhai [even though Jamil was a Colonel and Shafiullah was a Major General, Jamil was senior to Shafiullah]...

General Shafiullah, choking, broke the bad news to Anjuman Ara of her husband's death

A call came from Gen. Shafiullah, whom Col. Jamil had asked at dawn to send troops to Bangabandhu's rescue. Mrs. Jamil answered the phone and the chief of army choked as he broke the news of her husband's death. Bangladesh had lost a true patriot.

Enayetullah Khan

Anjuman fainted. The receiver fell from her hand. The three young girls still did not know what had happened to their father.

An army officer turned up a few moments later and told them that it was not safe for them to stay at Ganobhaban. They fled to Jamil's brother's house in an army jeep in the middle of the curfew.

We were in a state of denial, we could sense that my father was murdered, still we did not want to believe it.

Konka

The confirmation of Jamil's death came from Brigadier General Khaled Mosharraf. A negotiation with the murderers to retrieve the dead body of slain Col Jamil started. The murderers talked to Brig Gen Mosharraf - a mamu (maternal uncle) of Farook - and agreed to hand us over his dead body on the ground that Col Jamil was an army-man.

"My uncles went to road no 32 in Dhanmandi and received my father's dead body. It was brought back by my uncle's car, the whole time it was cordoned off by the killers," Konka says.

No one was allowed to see Jamil's face. Konka sneaked down to the street and saw his father's feet come out of the window. "All I could do was touch them," Konka says."

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The body was taken to Khaled Mosharraf's house. As there was a curfew, they could not get the burial shroud. The final rites were done at Mosharraf's house.

There was this beautiful white bed sheet that my aunt had brought from the US. It was used as a burial shroud.

Konka

Family given chance to see and bury body under one strict condition

Before the body was headed for the burial, the killers and their cohorts allowed Jamil's family members to see his dead body on one condition: No one was allowed to cry, no one would make a single sound. Surrounded by gun-totting killers, the family was allowed to see Jamil's body one last time. It was kept at Brig Gen Khaled Mosharraf's garage and when Col Jamil's eldest daughter broke into tears, the soldiers raised their guns and told her to get back into the house.

My father's body was still bleeding.

Konka

The coffin was wet with the blood of the hero. Col Jamil was buried at a graveyard in Dhaka Cantonment on 16 August 1975 at 1 in the morning.

Jamil's soul will be in peace and I will also die in peace. My father was an honest officer. I'm proud that my father sacrificed his life for such a great leader.

Tehmina Enayet, Colonel Jamil's eldest daughter

Such a tragedy is rare in history. Perhaps the Czar of Russia and his family were the only other example. The killers had a well honed blueprint and they executed it to perfection. Suddenly, Jamil became an unexpected obstruction in their hell bound way. And they saw to it that he is removed forever. In the process they made him unforgettable, if not immortal. In history he will remain as a super example of loyalty, duty and courage. As one privileged to know and work with him I will always think of him as the best of human beings. He remains unforgettable and unconquered. May his soul rest in eternal peace. May there never be another 15th of August ever.

Syed Abdus Samad,

Wife refuses to leave Bangladesh

After Col. Jamil's death the Swedish government wanted to give the Jamil family political asylum but Anjuman refused.

Jamil is lying here, I won't go anywhere else, leaving him alone.

Anjuman reluctant to leave the Motherland for which her husband gave up his life

On the 40th day of Col. Jamil's murder, Anjuman realised that she was expecting their fourth child. The baby, a girl, was named ‘Karishma’ meaning miracle.

Karishma Jamil, slain Col Jamil's fourth daughter, has never seen her father.

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