Updated at 10 a.m. ET on 2017-03-26
Two alleged extremists were killed Sunday, a day after two police officers and at least four other people were killed in two attacks outside a militant den being raided in Shabbari area of northeastern Sylhet district, according to officials.
Officials said this is the first time militants carried out attacks while police and military officers were conducting raids. On Sunday, commandos shot and killed two suspected Islamist militants inside the five-story apartment building.
“Our commandos could effectively engage two of them. We can confirm the two were killed," Brig. Gen. Fakhrul Ahsan told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse. Ahsan said both militants were wearing suicide bomb vests – and one of the vests exploded.
On Saturday, Bangladesh media reported that around 7 p.m. a man wearing a traditional lungi and carrying a polythene bag tried to join onlookers and reporters near the apartment building in Sylhet district, about 250 km (155 miles) from Dhaka.
As people asked him what he was carrying, the man replied a red leafy vegetable before an explosion occurred. As police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officers rushed to the scene, a second device exploded. As many as 40 people were injured.
The explosions occurred a day after a man carrying a bomb died when it blew up in front of a police checkpoint outside a Dhaka airport. The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the blasts on Friday and Saturday, according to SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based website that monitors online communications among Islamic militant groups worldwide.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and police and hospital sources released details about those injured in the attacks.
“We got a message that one on-duty police officer and two others died in militant attacks outside the den. The army, SWAT (special weapons and tactics) and police have been continuing the operation to free the house,” Kamal told BenarNews at 10:45 p.m. Saturday.
He did not release the names of those killed, but added that the number of injured could be 40 including police officials.
Sylhet Metropolitan Police Zedan Al Musa spokesman identified three killed as police inspector Chowdhury Md Kawser, second-year Madan Mohan College student Wahidul Islam Topu and Sylhet resident Shahidul Islam. Sources said a fourth person, who has not been identified, also died in the attack.
Jalalabad Police Officer In Charge Akther Hossein told reporters at 2 a.m. Sunday that Jalalabad officer Monirul Islam died at Osmani Medical College Hospital. In addition, Sylhet District Chatra League Vice President confirmed that Janjatul Fahim also died at the same hospital.
A source at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital said RAB Lt. Col. Abul Kalam Azad was transferred to Dhaka’s Combined Military Hospital for treatment. Two others, a RAB officer and an officer from Jalalbad police station, were also injured.
Operation began Thursday
Acting on a tip, police surrounded the apartment building at 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The militants had been confined to one of the ground floor apartments in the building containing 29 apartments, law enforcers said.
On Friday, SWAT members joined police surrounding the building.
Witness Abdul Hakim told BenarNews that the militants – at least one woman and one man –rebuffed the police call to surrender and shouted “send in SWAT, why wait?”
That evening, Bangladesh Army commandos arrived and launched a raid, codenamed Twilight, around 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The raid was expected to continue into Sunday morning.
The militants responded with gunshots from inside the building. As the army commandos carried out the raid, SWAT and other police maintained positions around the building.
The unknown number of militants continued to shoot at commandos and set off grenades. At 2 p.m., the militants intensified shooting, slowing the advance into the building.
“We are going slow. The militants had used IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in different parts of the building as trap,” army spokesman Brig. Gen. Fakhrul Ahsan said. “The operation has been ongoing.”
Fire brigade members joined the effort to rescue those trapped in the apartments. Ahsan told reporters around 6:40 p.m. Saturday that 78 civilians were rescued unhurt.
Tenants of the building in Sylhet district are led to safety, March 25, 2017. [Star Mail]
While police were surrounding the suspected militant den in Sylhet on Friday night, a man died when the bomb he was carrying blew up in front of a police checkpoint outside Dhaka’s main international airport. It was the second explosion in a week involving a suicide bomber near the aviation hub, authorities said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia said the incident was not a suicide bombing and that it was not related to last week’s explosion at a camp near the airport housing Bangladesh’s counter-terrorist Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). On March 17, two RAB members were injured when a suicide bomber approached them and detonated his bomb after scaling a wall and infiltrating the camp, officials said.