At least five people, including a police inspector, were killed and about five dozen were injured in bomb explosions on Saturday evening about 500 metres from a five-storey building in Sylhet, a suspected den of extremists, where army commandos along with other security forces were conducting ‘Operation Twilight.’
Three of the deceased were identified as Sylhet Metropolitan Police inspector Chowdhury Md Abu Kaysar, Madan Mohan College student Wahidul Islam Apu, one Shahidul Islam and local Chhatra League activist Zannatul Fahim, while the identity of a 30-year-old man was yet to be established.
Sylhet Osmani Medical Collegge Hospital emergency medical officer Atiqur Rahman said that 57 injured were admitted to the hospital till 2:00am on Sunday and one of them succumbed to the injury at about 1:45am.
Earlier at about 1:30am, Sylhet Metropolitan Police additional commissioner SM Rokonuddin said that four people were killed in the blasts.
The injured include Rapid Action Battalion and police officials and a journalist.
The casualties were injured in the blasts at two places in about 150-metre distance between 6:50pm and 7:50pm while the commandos had been raiding five-storey Atia Mahala at Dakhkhin Surma in Sylhet city.
Islamic State news agency Amaq on messaging service Telegram said that the Middle East-base extremist organisation claimed responsibility for the bomb attack stating that dozens dead and wounded after an explosive device was detonated near a checkpoint in Sylhet in Bangladesh.
Rapid Action Battalion additional director general (administration) Abdul Jalil Mondal told New Age that its intelligence chief Lieutenant Colonel Abul Kalam Azad and his deputy Major Asad, who were injured in the blasts, were sent to Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.
The condition of Abul Kalam Azad was critical, he added.
The authorities restricted movement while additional police were deployed in the area.
The police officials could not detail on what circumstances the explosives were detonated.
The first bomb attack came at about 6:50pm, after a while the army in Sylhet held a briefing near the suspected extremists’ den about the operation there.
‘After the briefing, we were leaving the place but bombs were hurled leaving a few people injured,’ said Emran Hossain Sumon, a staff reporter at ATN News who escaped injury as a bomb remained unexploded under his microbus.
He said that security officials and journalists took secured position and half an hour later several bombs were exploded near the place.
The second round of bomb explosion took place about 150 metres away from the place of the first attack. Cops seized a motorbike near their checkpoint on the Sylhet-Fenchuganj road suspecting it was used by the attackers.
The police officials also found unexploded bombs from the crime scene.
Until 2:00am on Sunday, the officials said that the army commandos continued the operation in Atia Mahal.
Earlier on the day, sounds of gunfire and explosions were heard repeatedly with small intervals.
Witnesses said that Shibul Malakar, a local trader, sustained bullet injury in the back as he was standing near the operation spot Saturday afternoon and was rushed to Sylhet Osmani Medical Collage Hospital.
‘The operation began at 7:00am in the morning and is still going on and the other details would be disclosed later, after concluding the operation,’ armed forces spokesperson Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan said in the briefing in the evening.
Earlier in the morning, commandos stormed into the house and rescued at least 78 civilians.
The commandos backed by armoured personnel carriers launched the operation after more than 30-hour standoff with the extremists in the five-storey building after counter terrorism officials spotted the hideout, where Rohingya-origin Marjina along with her family member reportedly took shelter.
Police raided the building at 2:00am on Friday and cordoned off the whole area after suspected extremists detonated bombs, police officials said.
Fakhrul could not say how many extremists were in the building, but police officials said that there were at least two including a woman.
‘All the 78 people from 28 families who were trapped in the building for more than a day were rescued by the army’s Para Commando Battalion,’ he said.
‘They are Islamist extremists,’ metropolitan police deputy commissioner Zedan Al Musa said.
Police used loudspeakers to ask the extremists to surrender, but they refused to give up, Zedan said.
Police conducted series of raids in Chittagong and adjacent areas following the capture of the two Jamaat ul Mujahideen 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 extracted from Hasan, police official said on March 8, they seized huge explosives, including 29 grenades, from a rented house at Mirsarai in Chittagong which was rented by a couple with a child.
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—
Jashim and his wife Arjina—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.
They said that Arjina’s sister Marjina was among the suspected extremists now in the Sylhet hideout with her husband.
Marjina rented the apartment at least three months ago, they said referring to the land lord.
The latest raid came after a series of bomb explosions at security camps by extremists this month including one at a police checkpoint near Dhaka international airport Friday night.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for two of the attacks including Friday’s blast in which a suspected bomb carrier was killed.
IS has also claimed responsibility for a wave of killings since 2015 including for a major attack on a Gulshan cafe on July 1, 2016 in which 22 people, including 17 foreigner, were killed.
The government denies IS has any presence in the country, arguing instead that a new faction of JMB was behind that and other attacks.
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