Pakistan used the airport as an airbase during the Liberation War of 1971
A total of three Liberation War-era bombs, each weighing 250kg, have been found in a span of 10 days during excavation work for the construction of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka.
A press release from Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has confirmed that the bombs were likely dropped during the Liberation War. According to various sources, they may be left over from India’s bombing runs on a Pakistani airbase situated at the airport.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, ISPR Director Lt Col Abdullah Ibn Zaid said: “Bomb experts are speculating that the bombs were dropped during the Liberation War of 1971.”
On Monday, Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport Director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan also said the bombs could have been dropped by Mitra Bahini, the joint forces of India and Bangladesh, during the Liberation War.
“These are General Purpose bombs. The bombs are too old to decode the name and number, we cannot read them,” he added.
AKM Maksudul Islam, project director for construction of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, confirmed that the airport was used as an airbase by Pakistan during the Liberation War.
"After the Liberation War, this area was left almost completely barren and no construction work had been done here before. Now that we have started digging for construction of the third terminal, the old bombs are being found," he added.
Indian Air Force Wing Commander Vinod Kumar Neb fought bravely for Bangladesh during the Liberation War. On December 4, 1971, he flew on a mission to conduct an airstrike on an airfield in Kurmitola.
“The bombs you are finding now were dropped from MIG-21 and Sukhoi aircrafts. At that time [during the Liberation War], these types of heavy bombs were carried by them,” the wing commander told Dhaka Tribune over the phone from India on Sunday.
“Some of the bombs exploded and some of them malfunctioned and became embedded under the surface of the earth almost 50 years ago. They can be turned into war-time souvenirs now,” he added, with a big smile on his face.
An article by Indian Air Force Air vice Marshal Arun Kumar Tiwary published in “Indian Defence Review” said the Indian Air Force conducted 15 airstrikes or operations in Bangladesh from December 4 to December 15.
BAF assists worried workers
Workers involved in the excavation work for the third terminal are worried by the discovery of three hazardous war relics in a short span of time.
When contacted, AKM Maksudul Islam confirmed that the workers were scared, and Bangladesh Air Force was helping ease their worries.
“Before we dig, the Air Force helps to scan the area so that our workers can work safely,” he said.
He also said the bomb disposal unit has responded promptly whenever called.
Faruk Kahn, former minister of civil aviation and a member of the parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Defence, stressed the need to ensure strict security during the construction of the third terminal, as many foreigners were working there.
He also suggested that the authorities form a committee to investigate the matter of the bombs.
The first Liberation War-era bomb was found about three metres below the ground at the third terminal construction site on December 9. The second was found on December 14 and the third on December 19.