Rapid Action Battalion continued its operation to arrest a group of suspected extremists from a six-storey block of flats at Mirpur in Dhaka until about 11:45pm on Monday, despite a massive explosion in the reported hideout that hurt at least four RAB members.
The elite force cordoned off the six-storey building at Mirpur in Dhaka since 11:00pm on Monday suspecting a fourth-floor flat of the apartment block to be a hideout of extremists.
A Bomb Disposal Unit of RAB entered the building at about 9:15pm.
Sounds of several explosions were heard from the building at about 9:45pm and sounds of several gunshots were also heard. Fire flames and smoke was seen emitting from the flat till 11:00pm.
RAB’s director for legal and media wing Mufti Mahmud Khan at 10:35pm told journalists that people, living in adjacent flats, were evacuated by afternoon.
Those were in the den were asked to surrender, he said, adding that on stage extremists agreed to surrender and sought time of half an hour from 7:30pm to 8:00pm.
But the extremists exploded a bomb at about 9:45pm when a team of RAB’s bomb disposal unit tried to enter the building, he said.
There were three big sounds of explosions and then several explosions occurred, he said.
Fire broke out in the fifth floor, he said.
‘We think it was a chemical fire,’ he said, adding that detailed could be known after the returning of the fire extinguishers.
Fire fighters were working in the spot, he confirmed.
Four RAB members were hurt by splinters and they were given primary treatment, he said.
‘We can’t say about the casualty at this moment,’ said the RAB director.
RAB suspected that there might be seven people, including the prime suspect Abdullah, a 35-year-old pigeon trader, supplier of UPS and IPS, and mechanic of refrigerator, in the flat at Bardhanbari area near the Darussalam police station.
Over 19 hours after beginning of the raid, RAB legal and media wing director Mufti Mahmud Khan told media in a press briefing at about 6:30pm that Abdullah had agreed to surrender before the elite force with his family members.
‘He had agreed to surrender hours ago. We have communicated with him in different ways throughout the day,’ he said.
As a mark of proof, Abdullah sent his wife and children on the balcony of the flat, he said.
He said that the process of their surrender would begin soon and if they act contrary to their agreement, RAB was ready to act.
The elite force said the seven people included two women and two children and they were asked to surrender to avoid any casualty.
‘The terrorist (Abdullah), his two wives, two children and two of his associates might have been staying in the flat. We are not sure whether his associates were in the apartment but we have been suspecting their stay,’ said RAB director general Benzir Ahmed at a short press briefing on the spot at around 11:30am.
Describing Abdullah ‘a notorious extremist,’ he said they had repeatedly called Abdullah over phone to surrender since Tuesday 4:00am but he did not response.
He said RAB had been conducting the raid as a follow-up of a raid at Tangail on Monday evening where two suspected extremists were arrested and a drone, knives and books encouraging extremism were seized.
The RAB DG said Abdullah, who joined extremism in 2005, had been living in the house for 10 or 12 years and had stored a pile of explosives, acid and petrol.
‘He (Abdullah) himself informed us that he had stored about 50 improvised explosive devices,’ Benazir claimed.
The house, namely Kamal Prava, owned by Habibullah Bahar Azad, has 24 apartments and RAB managed to evacuate 65 people from 23 apartments Tuesday early morning, he said.
‘We have been trying to make them surrendered by motivating them as there were innocent children and women in the apartment,’ he said.
He said that they had disconnected the electricity, water and gas connections of the house.
Official sources in RAB said Abdullah’s sister and the owner of the house was taken under RAB custody for interrogation.
They said that the fire fighters were also kept ready to douse fire caused by any sabotage or explosion by the suspected extremists.
Locals said they could notice heavy presence of RAB members sometimes after Tuesday 12:00am and heard big bangs of several explosions sometimes before and after 1:00am.
‘We were panicked as we heard the first explosion at around 12:45am, second one at around 1:00am and the last one at around 1:30am,’ said Moshtaqur Rahman Moshtaq, owner of a house near the suspected extremist dean, told New Age.
He said they left their house early in the morning fearing any untoward incident.
Saklayen Russel, a physician by profession, who got stranded with his family in a third floor of the block adjacent to the suspected hideout, told New Age at 7:45pm that they had been passing time anxiously to end the operation in their apartment laying on floor inside their apartment.
The RAB men also barred traffic and common people’s movement in the area establishing barricades at three points – at ward no. 10 community centre point, ward no. 9 playground point and near the house.
Our Tangail Correspondent reported that a team of RAB-12 arrested two suspected members of extremist organisation Jammatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh — Nurul Huda Masum, 30, and Mazharul Islam Khokon, 25, sons of Abul Hasan Chishty, of Mosinda village of Elenga area under Kalihati upazila of Tangail, from their house on Monday evening.
RAB -12 crime prevention company-3 commander Beena Rani Das said they also recovered a drone, some electronics devices and local weapons from their possession.
‘We think the drone might have been used in a couple of times,’ she said.
She added that the younger brother Khokon was used to study in the Islamic University in Libya’s Tripoli.
‘But he came back in 2012 without finishing his degree. He provided technical support to his brothers,’ she said.
She said Masum was a top-level extremist and was involved with JMB for long.
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