Four suspected militants blew themselves up Thursday as commandos raided a house where they were holed up in northwestern Bangladesh, and after a woman and child were able to flee to safety, officials said.
The suspects shot at and threw grenades toward security forces that had surrounded the house in Chapai Nawabganj district, during the counter-terrorist raid that spanned two days and ended late on Thursday, according to police.
They were believed to be members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, an outlawed militant group whose offshoot, Neo-JMB, was blamed for a deadly siege at a café in Dhaka last year – Bangladesh’s worst ever terrorist attack.
One of the dead militants was identified as 30-year-old Rafiqul Islam (alias Abu), Khurshid Hossain, the deputy inspector general of police of Rajshahi Range, told an evening press briefing in Chapai Nawabganj.
Hossain did not name the other three militants who also committed suicide by exploding bombs inside the house in Shibganj-Trimohoni village, about 316 km (196 miles) from Dhaka.
“Four militants became suicidal. But we were able to rescue an injured woman and a child [from the militant den],” Hossain said, adding that the woman and the child were admitted to a local hospital.
“Even before the end of the operation in the afternoon, they were urged to surrender,” Hossain said of the suspects.
Members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team who raided the home told BenarNews that Abu’s wife, Sumaiya, and their daughter fled from the house. Another daughter was not at the house when police surrounded it around 6 a.m. Wednesday.
SWAT and other officers began the raid – code-named Operation Eagle Hunt – at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, but stopped four hours later because of poor visibility.
Eagle Hunt resumed around 9 a.m. Thursday. About an hour later, neighbors reported hearing an explosion from inside the house.
At around 4:15 p.m., police asked the militants to let the women and children leave the building.
Sometime after 5 p.m., an ambulance carrying a woman left the scene, followed by another ambulance carrying the child about 20 minutes later, neighbors said.
Abu left his family’s home and rented the house in Shibganj-Trimohoni about three months ago, according to reports. On Wednesday, his mother, Fulsana Begum, asked him to leave the house and told reporters that she feared her grandchild could be killed in the raid.
Bangladeshi police have carried out 19 counter-terrorist raids since July 1, 2016, when members of Neo-JMB killed 20 people, mostly foreigners, during an attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka, according to Bangladeshi authorities.
Since July 2016, at least 63 suspected Neo-JMB militants have died, either killed by police or through suicide bombs.
Last month, at least 30 people including 18 suspects, three law enforcers and five children, were killed in a series of bombings, grenade attacks and other violence as Bangladeshi security forces launched counter-terrorism raids nationwide.