Two suspected members of a banned Bangladeshi militant group blew themselves up Friday as security forces cordoned off a house occupied by the pair in Southeastern Chittagong district, an official said.
Members of the elite anti-crime unit Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) were urging the two suspected militants to surrender but the duo opened fire, prompting officials to fire back, spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan told a news conference.
During the exchange of fire, the suspects killed themselves in a suicide explosion, Khan said.
“The exchange of fire continued for about half an hour. At one stage, the militants exploded two bombs,” Khan said. The two men were believed to be members of the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), he said.
Khan said the two militants were planning to attack a local court.
Police seized an AK-22 rifle, three pistols, five improvised explosive devices, explosives and bomb-making materials, he said.
It was the second suicide blast in Bangladesh this year. Three militants killed themselves as law enforcers raided their hideout in Dhaka’s Nakhalpara neighborhood on Jan. 12, authorities said.
Officials have accused the JMB and its offshoot Neo-JMB of involvement in attacks on secular activists and foreign targets, including the 2016 attack on a café in an affluent Dhaka community.
The U.S. State Department in February declared the Neo-JMB as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, allowing Washington to block assets that members of the group affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) may have in American jurisdictions. The designation also bars U.S. citizens from making financial transactions with the Bangladeshi terrorists.
Gunmen belonging to the Neo-JMB shot and killed an Italian aid worker in Dhaka in September 2015, according to a State Department news release, which also said that the group had claimed attacks carried out across the country, including an overnight siege at the Dhaka café in 2016.
In all, 29 people, including the five militants, died when the gunmen who claimed to be members of the Neo-JMB stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery café, killing 20 hostages, police said.
Since the attack, officials have rejected allegations of IS presence in the country even as security forces have launched crackdowns that led to the killings of top JMB leaders, mostly in what police said were shootouts.