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Blast kills 2 during raid at suspected militant den in Dhaka

  • Published at 09:00 am April 29th, 2019
Emergency services work to put out the flames in the wake of the explosion while law enforcement agencies secure the perimeter in Bosila ,Dhaka on Monday, April 29, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

While authorities wait to confirm the identities of the deceased, RAB suspect they could be members of JMB

At least two people have been killed in a blast at a suspected militant den in the Bosila area at Dhaka's Mohammadpur, following an exchange of fire with the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) during a raid.

Briefing the media at the scene on Monday afternoon, RAB Director General (DG) Benazir Ahmed confirmed the deaths, and said: “Based on the body parts, including three legs, seen at the blast site, two militants may have died here.”

The house caretaker identified the deceased as rickshaw van pullers Sujon and Sumon, but RAB said these could be aliases.

RAB 2 Commanding Officer (CO) Lt Col Ashique Billah told the Dhaka Tribune that the duo may have shown fake identity cards when they rented the room of that house, one and a half months ago.

He said: “The blast and subsequent fire have burnt the fingertips of both deceased, because of which we cannot use the fingerprint identification system. 

“However, we have collected DNA samples to run tests. We are working to confirm their identities.”

Several RAB higher-ups, seeking anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune that the two men could have been members of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), considering the manner in which they exchanged fire with RAB personnel and had the bombs exploded.

However, RAB could not confirm whether the suspects intentionally or accidentally detonated the bomb that decimated the house.

The raid came days after coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which killed over 250 people, for fear of such attacks in Bangladesh.

Even though law enforcement and intelligence agencies said there was no specific threat of any immediate militant attack in Bangladesh, they beefed security up around the country following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s directive.

The raid

Acting on a tip-off, the elite force had cordoned off the tin-shed house, situated at the end of Road No 8 in the Bosila Metro Housing, around 3am, RAB Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan told reporters.

The nearby houses were also evacuated soon after.

RAB members surround  the area during operation in Mohammadpur, Dhaka on Monday, April 29, 2019 |Dhaka Tribune

A senior official, who took part in the raid, said a woman had opened the door of the room when RAB personnel first knocked on the door at the beginning of the raid around 3:15am.

“Then the RAB officers heard someone reciting zikr inside the house. The shooting started right after they enquired who was reciting zikr and asked the woman to tell them to step out.

“RAB officers retreated and took positions at a safe distance around the house. The officers also evacuated caretaker Sohag, his wife and two children and the mosque’s Imam Yusuf from the house at the same time,” said the official.

“Since then, they exchanged fire with those inside the house in phases while several explosions were heard.”

DG Benazir said: “We fired back in self- defence. RAB had to fire 150 rounds of bullets to bring the situation under control.

“But they blew up the house in the end.”

RAB spokesperson Mufti said the biggest explosion inside the house took place around 4:45am.

The gunfight ended soon after that blast, according to locals and RAB officers.

“But to make sure we were not stepping into any other explosives, we used a drone to inspect the house before going in. The explosion had completely damaged the house,” Mufti said.

Later in the morning, around 11:15am, smoke was seen coming out of the house. A vehicle from the Fire Service and Civil Defence responded to the scene, while a team from RAB's forensic unit arrived around 11:30am.

RAB 2 CO Ashique declared the end of the 13-hour-long operation around 4pm.

Detention and seizure

After the raid, RAB 2 Company Commander Mohiuddin Faruk confirmed to the Dhaka Tribune that they have detained four people for questioning.

They were: the tin-shed house owner Abdul Wahab, caretaker Sohag and his wife, and the mosque’s Imam Yusuf.

Lt Col Ashique also told reporters that they recovered a number of parts of two bodies, two pistols, three magazines, six bullet shells, a machete, and several mobile phones, among other things, from the scene.

“We hope that no other militants managed to escape,” he added.

Four unexploded explosive devices were also recovered by a crime scene unit led by ASP Touhidul after the raid.

The body parts were sent to the Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College morgue around 3:45pm for autopsies.