Heavy gunshots were heard near two suspected dens of extremists in Moulvibazar from Wednesday morning as the police raids were underway on the houses owned by a Bangladeshi-British taxi driver.
Until 8:00pm, the authorities formally did not announce whether any suspect was captured or someone else was killed during the raids on house at Fatehpur and Barhat by different police units. The police, however, suspected that the ‘kingpin’ of extremists might take shelter at the houses.
In the evening, the Special Weapons And Tactics unit of police launched ‘Operation Hit Back’ at Fatehpur house made of bricks and corrugated iron sheet with boundary walls of brinks.
Sylhet range deputy inspector general of police Kamrul Ahsan said that the operation was suspended at about 11:00pm until this morning.
The police also cordoned off a brick-walled house in Comilla on Wednesday while drives continued in the capital and elsewhere in the country against extremists.
Home affairs minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters at the ministry that primary information indicated that there might be three to four extremists in a hideout detected at Barhat in Moulvibazar town while a few more — two to four more — might be in another hideout spotted at Fatehpur village.
‘One or two women extremists might be there in the hideout at the village from where bombs were being charged,’ he said on the detection of new extremists’ hideouts in Moulvibazar just a day after the end of four-day Operation Twilight by army commandos at a den of extremists at Atia Mahal in Sylhet.
Four extremists were killed in the commando operation while six others, including two police inspectors, were killed in bomb blasts near Atia Mahal on March 25.
The police headquarters in a statement on Wednesday asked the media to downplay the incident especially not to air videos or broadcast live, saying it could create panic and ‘sense of insecurity’ among the people.
The statement also asked journalists not to gather near the operation sites, and stop airing any scroll, video footages and photographs of the site.
It further read that the police headquarters expected continued ‘support’ from media in countering extremism.
New Age correspondent in Moulvibazar reported that sporadic gunshots were heard since Wednesday morning after the police reportedly launched a raid on Barhat house of UK expatriate Saiful Islam in the district headquarters.
The cops later came to know about the second house at Fatehpur village, some 20-kilometre north of the first house in the north-eastern tea-growing district.
One Mahfuzj introducing him as an employee of Pran RFL group rented both the houses in January from Saiful Islam, police officials said.
As soon as the police raided the house at Barhat, manager of the house Jewel informed the police that the suspects had rented another house at Fatehpur.
Jewel told the police that the man who introduced Mahfuj along six others started living at Fatehpur house while his relative Belal with four others used to live at Barhat.
The police cordoned off Barhat house locate near the west end of the district.
The district magistrate imposed ban on any gathering or procession in two square kilometres of Ward-6 of Moulvibazar municipal area, and at Fatehpur village from 2:00pm.
At Fetahpur, the neighbourhood woke with a huge blast in the morning and heard gunshots until night.
A neighbour, Faruk Ahmed, said that he woke hearing the sound of blast at about 7:00am. ‘Later, we heard sporadic gunshots from the house and its adjacent area.’
Law enforcers sealed off the area and local educational institutes suspended academic activities for the day at Fatehpur.
District Special Branch additional police superintendent Rausanuzzaman Siddique said that law enforcers had cordoned off the Barhat house at 3:00am on Wednesday, and Fatehpur village Wednesday morning.
The suspected extremists reportedly exploded few bombs and fired gunshots in the morning but there was no response from the police, the officials said.
Residents who were living nearby the two hideouts at Fatehpur and Barhat were evacuated safely, they said.
The police set up several checkpoints in the district headquarters while shopkeepers in Kusumbag commercial area and Barhat of Moulvibazar district town suspended their business.
In Comilla, district superintendent of police Shah Abid Hossain said that the counter-terrorism unit of police sieged the house near Bara Kabarsthan of Gandamati of Kotbari suspecting that a number of extremists were staying there with huge arms and ammunitions.
He said that a team of Special Weapons and Tactics was on the way to Kotbari to conduct a drive.
According to the police, the owner of the building was Delwar Hossain and the suspected extremists rented the ground floor of the three-storey building.
The police officials said that they arrested one person in the area.