The residents of Moulvibazar’s Borohat and Nasirpur areas woke up on Wednesday morning to the sound of grenades and gunshots, only nine hours after an 111-hour joint forces’ drive ended in neighbouring Shibbari, Sylhet where four militants were killed.
Police cordoned off two suspected militant hideouts in Borohat municipality and Nasirpur village around 2am on Wednesday. Both the buildings, about 20km apart, are owned by a London expatriate named Saifur Rahman.
The den in Borohat is a three-storey building while the one in Nasirpur village is a single-storey bungalow. The Borohat building is located near a madrasa.
At the time of filing the report at around 10pm, a SWAT team had ended its operation to bust the militant den in Nasirpur.
Sylhet range Deputy Inspector General Kamrul Ahsan said the building in Nasirpur was under SWAT’s control but the operation would not continue at night as police suspected that explosives were stashed in there.
He would not say if any militants had been killed or apprehended.
At the Borohat den, a SWAT contingent arrived around 6pm but did not start an operation.
Sporadic gunshots and explosions were heard at the two locations throughout the day. Local authorities have declared Section 144, a ban on public gathering, for a 2km area around both the spots. Moulvibazar Deputy Commissioner Tofayel Ahmed said the ban would stay in place until further notice.
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Police take position near a three-storey building, a suspected militant den, in the Borohat municipality in Moulvibazar on Wednesday DHAKA TRIBUNE
Moulvibazar Sadar police station Sub-Inspector Abdul Aziz said three grenades were hurled at law enforcers from the building in Borohat in the morning.
Saifur’s cousin Atik said: “A family of two men, a woman and two children rented the bungalow-styled house in Nasirpur two months ago. They told us they work for RFL Group.
A caretaker named Jewel and his wife also live at the house, he said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit Deputy Commissioner Mohibul Islam said: “We have information that several militants are hiding in these two dens.”
Local police and CTTC officials are present at the spot.
“Three or four militants may be hiding at the Borohat den and several other militants, including women, are holed up in the Nasirpur hideout,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists at his office.
Moulvibazar is the hometown of militant Maj (sacked) Syed Ziaul Haq, the man behind the targeted killings of secular writers and activists last year.
Meanwhile, life in Sylhet city has started to return to normal after five days – except for Shibbari, Pathanpara, Mominkhola and Chandai, the surrounding areas of the Atia Mahal den, where law enforcement is on high alert.
Six people, including two police officials, died in two bomb blasts near the den and more than 40 people were injured.
Shibbari still under lockdown
In Sylhet city, people told our correspondent, Mohammad Serajul Islam, that during the five days of the raid, many residents of the city did not leave their homes. Many businesses reopened on Wednesday and customers began to return.
However, the area surrounding the militant den in Shibbari is still under lockdown.
Military personnel have handed over Atia Mahal to law enforcement. Police, Armed Police Battalion and Rapid Action Battalion are surrounding the building.
At 4pm on Wednesday, the bomb disposal unit from Dhaka had not yet arrived, said Dakshin Surma police station Assistant Commissioner Mostafizur Rahman. Explosives made by the militants are still strewn out across the building making it almost inaccessible.
The bodies of two of the four militants killed in the raid are still in the building. Sources said the suicide vests on the bodies made them impossible to move.
The public are barred from going into a three square kilometre area around the building. Around Shibbari, police are checking the identification of many residents.
Dakshin Surma police station officials said they were checking national IDs of the residents.
The roads in the area are blocked with police checkposts. In most places, vehicles are being blocked. People are allowed to walk through but only after being patted down.
Many residents of the surrounding areas have not left their homes in the last few days. Some have stopped going to work. Others have moved away from the area temporarily.
Nantu Ranjan, a government employee from Shibbari, said since Friday everyone in the neighbourhood had been stuck in their homes. He had sent his family away to relatives.
Gas supply to the area has not yet been restored.
Monji Ara’s family in Sylhet
The father and elder brother of Monji Ara Parvin, a woman believed to be the female militant killed in Atia Mahal, arrived in Sylhet on Wednesday afternoon.
Monji Ara is the missing sister of Zubaira Yasmin, the female militant killed in the Sitakunda militant den raid on March 16.
Three of the children of this family from Baishari union under Naikkhyangchhari, Bandarban has been missing since last year.
In the evening, doctors at Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital collected DNA samples from Monji Ara’s father.
Our Moulvibazar correspondent Saiful Islam and Bandarban correspondent S Basu Das also contributed to this story