A ‘mass terror attack’ bid was foiled on Tuesday in Bangladesh, reeling under a number of Islamist attacks, as security forces killed nine members of a homegrown militant group during a fierce gun-battle that erupted after a pre-dawn raid at their hideout here.
Police said the nine terrorists were killed while one was captured alive during the operation codenamed ‘Storm 26’ to flush out militants holed up in an apartment at a six-storey building in Kalyanpur area.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh averted a major terror attack.
“The country averted a fearful situation because of the (security) raid,” she said.
The Prime Minister said that the raid was carried out on intelligence reports that the terrorists were preparing for an attack and security forces took immediate action.
Police’s special SWAT unit, elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and detectives jointly raided ‘Jahaz Building’ around 5:51 AM local time, sparking a gunfight that last for an hour.
“From police intelligence sources we learnt that they were planning to carry out a major attack. We conducted the operation to foil any such incident,” national police chief A K M Shahidul Hoque told reporters.
Dhaka’s joint police commissioner Sheikh Maruf Hassan said the security forces arrested one militant with bullet wounds from the scene during the special raid.
Hoque said militants were suspected to be members of homegrown extremist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) blamed for the July 1 cafe attack, the country’s worst terror assault.
“They (militants) are primarily presumed to be a part of the group that carried out terror attacks in Gulshan (restaurant) and (northern) Sholakia,” Hoque said.
The Islamist gunmen wearing black tunics, turbans and carrying backpacks exchanged fire and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the Greatest).
Dhaka’s police commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia later told a media briefing that terrorists were “highly educated”.
“We seized 13 handmade grenades, one sword, one pistol, seven magazines and bullets from the den, along with other evidence like inscribed black flags,” he said.
Rakibul Hasan alias Rigan, the militant arrested during the raid, was missing since last year. He claimed to be a member of the Islamic State, reports said.
But the police chief said police found no evidence of ISIS link. Security analyst believe that JMB is ideologically inclined to the Syria-based outfit.
The police chief said the raid was carried out as part of a nationwide anti-militant clampdown following the two back-to back terrorist attacks earlier this month.
‘Jahaz Building’ is a residential apartment complex for middle income people who lived in most of the flats in families but two floors of the structure were rented out to students and some youths.
Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of deadly attacks by Islamist extremists.
Twenty two people, including an Indian girl, were killed by suspected ISIS militants inside a cafe popular with expats in the diplomatic zone in Dhaka in the worst terror attack in Bangladesh before commandos launched an assault, killing six attackers and capturing one alive.
Around 30 people were injured in the attack for which Islamic State claimed responsibility through its Amaq news agency, nearly four hours after the hostage crisis unfolded.
The government, however, maintains that the home grown militant outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) was behind the attack.
Days after the cafe siege, gunmen attacked the country’s largest Eid prayer gathering, killing at least three people.