Five people, including a woman and a toddler, were killed in a police raid on an extremist den at a two-storey building at Sitakunda in Chittagong on Thursday.
The police were also set to launch another operation in Chittagong late in the past night, said Chittagong police range deputy inspector general Shafikul Islam.
The police were yet to identify the deceased but suspected that the four adults were members of a faction of Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, which were earlier led by Canadian-Bangladeshi
Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, killed along with two others in an operation in Narayanganj on August 27, 2016.
Site Intelligence Group claimed that Tamim was an Islamic State operative in Bangladesh while Bangladesh counter-terrorism officials said that the faction was inspired by Islamic State.
Shafikul said that the four were killed during the operation ‘Assault 16.’
The police said that before the operation, they asked the suspects to surrender but the extremists hurled grenades, prompting the operation.
The police team stormed into the two-storey building, Chayaneer, at Premtala at about 6:00am after overnight preparation employing special operational force from Dhaka.
As the operation was launched, one of the four extremists climbed the stairs and tried to blow him up with explosive, Shafikul said, adding that he was shot and fell down over two others.
Police officials said that they heard the suspects crying ‘Allah hu Akbar’ before huge sound of blast came out from the hideout at about 6:30am while the roof of the staircase was blown off. At about 6:45am all the sounds of gunshots stopped.
‘The explosion tore apart the bodies of three extremists leaving them unidentifiable,’ said the Chittagong regional police chief.
The female extremist, who was little far with explosive vest, threw a bomb targeting police team, he said, adding, ‘She was killed by our bullets.’
The police later found a toddler boy killed and trapped under the body of the woman.
‘We will collect their DNA samples for crossmatching against families of some listed suspects,’ said Shafikul.
A number of explosive objects were recovered during the drive, he said.
The police officials said that two cops were also injured during the raid and they were rushed to Combined Military Hospital in Chittagong.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime additional deputy commissioner Abdul Mannan said that the injured specialised cops were out of danger.
One hour after the operation, the police evacuated some 20 people from the building and few of the frightened tenants were also sent to local upazila health complex.
Deputy assistant community officer of the health complex Ismat Zarin said that the people admitted to the health complex were suffering from respiratory problem after inhaling tear gas.
The tenants said that the extremists did not harm them but the cops asked them to keep their doors closed during the operation.
Md Shahadat Hossain, 32, who lives on the ground floor of the building, said that the extremists did not take them hostage. ‘They did not even knock our doors. As police asked us not to move, we did not come out.’
The tenants said that they were not familiar with their new neighbours who later were identified as extremists. The extremists did not meet anyone and always kept their doors locked, the tenants said.
Explosives and bombs were seen scattered at the apartment and roof of the building after the operation.
Police officials said that they were defusing the bombs until Thursday evening.
The landlord, Md Mohiuddin, said that the suspects rented the apartment two months and a half ago.
On Wednesday, police busted an extremist den at house, Sadhan Kutir, at Amirabad of Lamar Bazar area of Sitakunda, about 1km away from Chayaneer.
At Amirabad, the police arrested a couple with their three-month-old child.
‘We are still interrogating the couple. We will launch another operation later in the night,’ said Shafikul, adding that the couple would be produced before a judicial magistrate in Chittagong.
United News of Bangladesh adds: inspector general of police AKM Shahidul Hoque on Thursday said that the strength of extremists had waned following continuous anti-extremist drives.
‘A special anti-extremist drive began across the country on March 9. During the drive, two JMB suspects were arrested while hurling bombs at cops in Comilla and following their confessions, law enforcers conducted drives at extremist hideouts at Sitakunda in Chittagong,’ he said in a city function.
Police conducted series of raids in Chittagong and adjacent areas following the capture of the two JMB suspects – a retired army officer’s missing son Ahmed Azwat Imtiaz Talukdar Ami, who left house in Dhaka on February 29, 2016, and Mahmudul Hasan – during a regular check on a bus on Chandina highway in Comilla on March 7.
Based on information given by Hasan, the police said on March 8 that they seized huge explosives, including 29 grenades, from a rented house at Mirsarai in Chittagong which was rented by a couple with a child.
Police said that the couple also introduced themselves as ‘garment traders.’
The couple had fled the house few days before the police raided it.
Police raid on a suspected extremist den led to the arrest of the couple with a kid and seizure of huge bomb-making materials at Amirabad of Sitakunda, leading the operation at the other building, the police officials said.
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