Three suspected militants killed in a gunfight with Rapid Action Battalion in a 14-hour operation
The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) busted a hideout of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) only 500 metres away from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Friday, on the fourth anniversary of the Awami League-led 14-party alliance government.
Three suspected JMB operatives were killed during the raid, which took place on the fourth floor of a six-storey residential building named Ruby Villa in West Nakhalpara. Two RAB officials were injured as well.
The militants were planning to carry out attacks on important establishments in Dhaka, said Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan, director (media and legal wing) of the elite law enforcement force.
“We had intel that a cell of JMB was staying in the city,” he told reporters during a media briefing after the raid officially ended. “Later, we learnt that the militants were planning to carry out attacks on important establishments in the city. Based on this information, we conducted the raid.”
The dead bodies of the militants, who have yet to be identified, were sent to Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital for autopsy around 4pm.
The raid team also recovered three suicide vests, two pistols, 14 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and detonators, four containers of explosive gel and equipment to make IEDs from the room the militants had been staying in.
Five people, including the building’s caretaker Rubel, were taken into custody for interrogation.
‘They used fake names, IDs to rent the room’
The militants, all aged between 25 years and 27 years, had moved into Ruby Villa earlier in January, said RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed.
All three were staying in one room in the east-side flat on the fourth floor of the building, which has four other residents, all of whom are students.
Speaking to reporters at the scene on Friday, the RAB chief said: “We found two National ID cards in the flat they had been living in. Both the cards have the photo of the same person, but the name on one card is Jahid, and the name on the other is Sajib. They rented one of the rooms in the flat using fake identities.”
One of the militants posed as a private firm employee Jahid and spoke with Ruby Villa caretaker Rubel on December 28, 2017 and rented one of the rooms in the flat. He moved into the room on January 4, said Benazir.
“The other two militants moved into Jahid’s room on January 8. Jahid introduced them to his flatmates as his brothers,” said Commander Mufti Mahmud Khan. “They lived in the flat with people who had no connection with their organization, maintaining a low profile.”
This is a new tactic that militants are adopting to hide themselves, he told reporters.
“Usually, we see militants renting an entire flat and living there as a family. But this time, we saw that they rented only a room and lived with four ordinary people in the same flat. They thought they would be able to cover their tracks better this way,” Mufti said.
Not the first rodeo in Ruby Villa
On Friday’s raid was the third raid conducted in Ruby Villa, said Commander Mufi Mahmud Khan.
“The same goes for West Nakhalpara. A number of people, suspected to be militants or members of Jamaat-e-Islami or Islami Chhatra Shibir, have been arrested by RAB in 2013, 2016 and even last year,” he told reporters.
Residents of the building as well as the neighbourhood recounted their experience of on Friday’s raid.
“My son called me at dawn and told me about the raid,” said Md Kamal Hossain, whose son Parvej lives in a room of one of the flats on the fifth floor. “He said he heard some noise coming from the flat below his. He and his flatmate wanted to go out to see what was happening, but could not because their door was locked from outside.”
RAB officials said Parvej and all the other residents of the building had been moved to the first floor for safety.
RAB learnt that the owner of Ruby Villa, 55-year-old Mohammad Sabbir Hossain, an official of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, did not know about his new tenants.
Sabbir was away on a flight during the raid. His family – his wife, whom the building is named after, and son – live in the building.