Security forces have been trying to flush out militants from Atia Mahal, a residential building in Pathanpara area in Sylhet's Shibbari, since Friday night. So far, two men, believed to be militants, have been shot dead by the army during a joint raid titled Operation Twilight.
Meanwhile an explosion near the site on Saturday left six men, including two police officers, dead and scores injured. The Dhaka Tribune has compiled some of the more common questions readers may have about the raid:
What is the current situation?
Para-commandos of Bangladesh Army continue to raid the militant hideout for the fourth consecutive day, while police have cordoned off at least one square kilometre area surrounding Atia Mahal. The bodies of four militants, including three males and one female, have been recovered from the house. While it is unlikely that there are more militants inside, operations are still ongoing as there are numerous live bombs remaining in the building. Army has handed over the body of the female and one other to police, but they have been unable to handover the other two bodies as they are still wearing suicide vests and surrounded by explosives.
Who are the militants?
The militants have not been identified yet and it is unclear which group they belong to. However, unconfirmed sources say they are members of New JMB. A police official, asking not to be named, said it is suspected that the body of the female militant from the hideout is that of Morjina, whose ID was used to rent the flat. She is also suspected to be the sister Kamal, one of the deceased militants from the recent raid in Sitakunda.
Is a top militant leader holed up inside the building?
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and security forces say they suspect a senior militant leader could be hiding there. Unconfirmed sources said New JMB leader Mainul Islam Musa is staying there with several senior leaders of the banned militant outfit.
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A photo of Atia Mahal, the suspected militant den under siege in Sylhet DHAKA TRIBUNE
How long have the militants been staying there?
The authorities are saying the New JMB militants have been using the ground floor of the building as their main hideout since January. The militants are believed to have a huge stockpile of explosives in the flat.
What do the security forces say about the militants?
Army spokesperson Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan described them as being “well-trained and well-equipped.” The militants are equipped with suicide vests. Brig Gen Fakhrul also said the militants have rigged the building's stairwell, entrance, and its floors with improvised explosive devices.
Are there any hostages? What about the building's residents?
It is believed that the militants are not holding anyone hostage. Army para-commandos rescued 78 residents of the building by Saturday afternoon and said only the militants were left in the five-storey building.
Was the Islamic State behind Saturday's blast?
The Islamic State’s news agency Amaq reported the bomb blast in Sylhet that killed six people, including two policemen. But the IS neither called it a suicide attack nor did they claim responsibility.
What does the government say?
Since September 2015, IS has taken credit for 28 attacks in Bangladesh. Media reports suggested that IS had claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, but the home minister said IS did not have any link to the blast.
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RAB members prepare for the raid Courtesy
Was Saturday’s blast a suicide attack?
Law enforcers initially described the blast as a suicide attack. Two of the deceased, Khadim Shah and Shahidul, are still under suspicion. However, law enforcers later claimed the blast was triggered by a time bomb left behind in a bag.
Additional Commissioner SM Rokan Uddin, Sylhet Metropolitan Police, said the investigation is ongoing.
Who are the victims of the blast? How are the survivors doing?
SMP Inspector (Special Branch) Moniruzzaman, SMP Inspector (Court) Chowdhury Abu Kawsar, Dakshin Surma Chhatra League leader Jannatul Fahim, City Chhatra League leader Ohidul Islam Opu, and suspected bombers Shahidul Islam and Khadim Shah were killed in the blast. More than 40 injured people are being treated at MAG Osmani Medical College in Sylhet. Injured RAB Intelligence chief Lt Col Abul Kalam Azad was taken to Singapore for better treatment.
Is there any link between Saturday’s explosion and Operation Twilight?
The explosion took place within the 250 metres radius of Atia Mahal where law enforcers and onlookers had gathered. Law enforcers have not been able to establish any further link.
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Policemen are on alert position to avert any attack Courtesy
How many killed in Operation Twilight?
Four of the militants inside Atia Mahal have been shot dead by commandos, Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan said at a briefing. The para-commandos did not suffer any casualties.
Who're taking part in the joint raid?
Police cordoned off the building since early Friday. A SWAT team reached the spot around 4pm Friday. They were joined by Army’s Para-Commando Battalion in the evening. Currently CTTC, SWAT, RAB and police are taking part in the raid led by the Army.
Why did it take so long to neutralise the militants?
The Army said the militants were "well-trained and well-equipped" for a drawn-out siege. The raid was progressing slowly with the goal being to neutralise the militants while minimising harm to the para-commandos. In addition, the militants had planted IEDs throughout the building to impede the para-commandos' progress.