Bangladesh’s counter-terrorist Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) carried out a strike on a militant hideout in Dhaka on Monday, leading to the suicide-bomb deaths of at least two suspects, officials said.
RAB officers surrounded a makeshift tin-shed house in the Bosila neighborhood of the Bangladeshi capital and called on those inside to surrender. But about six hours after the government forces arrived, bystanders heard an explosion followed by a fire, officials said.
“At least two militants were killed. They blew themselves up as we started the operation following their refusal to surrender,” RAB senior superintendent Mizanur Rahman, who was at the scene, told BenarNews.
“Primary indication shows that they blew themselves up with an IED (improvised explosive device). We have yet to identify them or which militant outfit they belong to,” he said.
The blast marked the first suicide bombing incident by militants in Bangladesh since Oct. 16, 2018, when a woman and a child died in an explosion at a hideout in Dhaka’s Narshingdi district.
RAB officers, on the basis of intelligence reports, first arrived around 3 a.m. Monday, knocked on the door of the house and got no response. They then went to a nearby mosque, according to RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed.
“We interrogated the caretaker of the mosque near the house. As we were interrogating the caretaker, the people inside the house open fired on us. Our forces fired back,” he said.
The house’s owner, the caretaker and caretaker’s wife were arrested along with the imam of the mosque, RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters.
Neighbor recounts raid
Naim Shikder, a mason whose house is about 50 meters from the hideout, told BenarNews about the standoff.
“We stayed inside the house. At around 3:30 a.m., we heard sounds of firing,” he said.
“We were terrified that we could be caught in the crossfire. At dawn, we were herded out to a nearby mosque.”
Shikder said the hideout was constructed several months ago.
“The owner of the house was a cable TV businessman and he set up the nearby mosque. A caretaker lives there with his wife and two children,” he said.
“We used to hear recitations from the Holy Quran,” he said.
Neighbor Maleka Begum told BenarNews that she visited the house a couple of days ago.
“On Saturday, I saw two bearded men sleeping in the room next to the room of the caretaker. One of them was fat and had a long beard while the other was slim and had a thin beard,” she said.
“I was curious to see who the two men were and tried to peep through the room. But the wife of the caretaker told me not to,” Begum said.
She said she walked past the house at 11 p.m. Friday. “I saw two persons carrying a small courier bag come to the house on a motorcycle. They covered their faces with a scarf,” she said.
RAB and police officials said about 100 suspected militants had been killed in Bangladesh since an overnight siege claimed by an Islamic State-linked group at the Holey Artisan Bakery café attack, the deadliest in the nation’s history. In all, 20 civilians, two police and two café workers were killed along with five militants who died when security forces raided the café the morning after the siege began.
Terrorist attacks abroad denounced
Also on Monday, Bangladesh’s parliament adopted a unanimous resolution denouncing recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka.
“The Bangladesh parliament urges the governments of all countries and their citizens to build up resistance against terrorism and militancy,” Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury told BenarNews.
Seven opposition members of parliament, including five newly sworn in Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) members, participated in the discussion and vote on the resolution.
“Bangladesh must be made free from militants and terror. We need to be united to face the challenges of terrorism and militancy,” said Harun Rashid, a BNP member who took the parliamentary oath on Monday.
On March 15 in New Zealand, an Australian white supremacist allegedly opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 50 people.
On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers attacked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, leaving around 250 people dead, according to government officials.
In the aftermath of the suicide attacks, Sri Lanka expelled foreign employees who worked at a factory owned by one of the suspects who carried out the April 21 bombings. Eleven Bangladeshis were among factory workers sent back to their home countries.
The 11 were interrogated by authorities after coming back to Bangladesh, Monirul Islam, the chief of the counter-terrorist unit at Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters Monday.
“Those workers were employed in a factory owned by Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed, who is one of the alleged suicide attackers in Sri Lanka,” he said. “After the death of Ibrahim Insaf, Sri Lankan authorities shut down the factory and interrogated employees, then handed over all foreign workers to their respective embassies.”
“So far we have learned they were very ordinary workers. But we are checking whether they have any past criminal record at home,” he said.