Two killed, more ‘well-trained’ militants inside, says army in Sylhet
Published : 27 Mar 2017, 01:01
Two militants have been killed inside a terror hideout in Sylhet's Shibbari area, the army claimed on Sunday.
But army spokesman Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan said there were 'several more well-trained operatives active inside the hideout'.
As the operation spills over into the third day, bdnews24.com reports that the army was in for a long haul.
Brig Gen Ahsan confirmed that the operation was far from over and pointed to 'considerable risks' involved in it.
The army briefing took place in a location at Shibbari in South Surma on the outskirts of Sylhet city not far from the location of 'Operation Twilight'.
The terrorists are ‘armed with small arms, explosives and suicide vests’ and have planted Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) all over the buildings, Brig Gen Ahsan said.
“They are well-trained and have lobbed back the grenades we threw at them. They also took care of our tear gas shells by building fires.”
“The operation will take more time. There are risks involved and we are not in any hurry,” said the army official.
The brigadier general said the dead militants were male and there was still no confirmation about female operatives inside.
The army's para-commando battalion took over the police raid to begin 'Operation Twilight' on Saturday morning.
Seventy-eight people trapped inside the building complex were evacuated amid massive firing. While that went on, a blast within a kilometre of the buildings, killed six people including two policemen.
"We're certain that two militants have died. One of them was wearing a suicide vest," said Brig Gen Ahsan. "Our commandos saw them running and fired at them. A suicide blast took place as they fell."
There are still multiple operatives inside, he said. "They are very careful and are wearing suicide vests."
The building's owner, Ustar Ali, earlier said a couple, Kauser Ali and Morjina Begum, rented a lower-storey flat, believed to be the militant den, three months ago.
Kauser Ali, he said, claimed to be an audit officer for PRAN Foods Ltd.
On Friday, the unidentified suspects were heard responding to police announcements made through loud speakers. As police asked them to surrender, a male was heard saying, "Why are you wasting time? … send in the SWAT!"
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal earlier hinted of the possibility that a 'militant leader', maybe inside the Sylhet hideout.
"We cannot say when operation will end," Brig Gen Ahsan told reporters. "Our commandos are trying but it has been difficult."
"The militants have good knowledge on how to fortify a place using bombs."
"We have been applying various tactics since morning … like creating holes using rocket launchers … but those didn’t help much. But when we fired teargas shells, they started running in disarray.
The army official denied speculation that the building was beginning to tilt because of the operation.
"The reports are simply not correct. We pushed down a wall because it was getting in the way of our firing. Not one tin roof is out of place."
He said no army personnel have been injured in militant assault.
A risky evacuation
The 78 trapped residents were rescued by using a ladder that bridged the rooftops of two buildings because the militants placed IEDs at the entrance and in front of the buildings, said Brig Gen Ahsan.
"Commandos cut the metal grill of a veranda to bring them out. The weather was bad, there was a storm outside. The militants weren't prepared for it."
But an elderly woman who got left behind during the drive on Saturday was later rescued. 'She isn't from Atia Mahal (green building). She is from a nearby white building."
Police's counter-terror unit had led the series of anti-terror operations in the wake of the Jul 1 Gulshan attack in which 22 people were killed.
The army had ended the deadly siege of Holey Artisan Bakery by shooting dead six suspects including five gunmen. It has not taken part in further operations until the raid in Sylhet.
Lt Col Imrul Hasan, commander of the 1st Para-commando Battalion, has been leading the operation.
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