General

Militant retaliation claims 6 lives amid security assault in Sylhet

SYLHET, March 26, 2017 (BSS) � Military commandos today visibly prepare for a final assault as death toll in militant retaliation overnight rose to six while the security clampdown was underway to neutralise extremists at a five-storey building in Sylhet.

We have enforced Section 144 (of Criminal Procedure Code) strictly barring people's entry within the vicinity for security following the casualties, a police officer told newsmen near the scene.

The development came as a second police officer and another onlooker succumbed to their wounds raising the toll to six overnight.

A BSS journalist, covering the developments, reported sounds of intermittent gunshots and

explosions at the scene indicating militants' response to the security siege that virtually continued for the last three days.

Doctors at Osmani Medical College Hospital said they alone treated over 50 people after the

subsequent blasts which also injured two military officers serving in the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).

Until midnight yesterday four people were killed as the militants launched retaliation, also injuring nearly 40 onlookers and security personnel as an army assault was underway at a nearby building occupied presumably by operatives of neo-Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (Neo-JMB).

The dead included two police inspectors and four onlookers, two of them being college students as the fellow militants from outside staged two subsequent explosions.

A crowd of at over 500 people were standing on a regional highway keeping a distance of over 400 yards from the terrorist occupied building when the militants exploded a powerful device, visibly being mixed up with ordinary people.

They staged the second blast came in less than an hour as security personnel replaced the onlookers and took position at the site where the RAB explosive experts were examining the evidence.

Police earlier asked people in the neighbourhood to keep a safe distance from the hideout and advised them to stay indoors as the army commandos led by a major general started the crackdown being assisted by police's SWAT, counter terrorism unit and RAB.

An army spokesman earlier said 78 ordinary residents including 27 women and 21 children were evacuated from the building within hours after the army intervened at the scene yesterday morning but they were yet not sure about the number of militants inside.

Officials said contrary to what was thought before that the militants were staying only on the ground floor, it now appeared they moved to different parts of the building planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as traps.

Earlier reports said at least two suspected militants including a female were inside on Atia Mahal's ground floor but security officials feared a "whole lot of them" could also be there as the crackdown began.

Witnesses said police repeatedly asked the couple, who were living in the building for the last three months as ordinary tenants, to surrender using megaphones but they visibly declined to comply with the call.

Police tracked down the Sylhet hideout less than a week after they cracked down two identical militant dens in Chittagong where four extremists were killed.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)