Since March 16, Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit has conducted four anti-militancy drives – Operations Assault 16, Twilight, Hit Back and Maximus – in Chittagong, Sylhet and Moulvibazar.
Operation Assualt 16 at Chayaneer in Sitakunda, Chittagong and the two militants, Jashim and Arjina, who were arrested from Shadhon Kutir also in Sitakunda, provided CTTC with information about Atia Mahal in Shibbari, Sylhet. They also learned about a bomb-maker who was supplying the various militant dens with explosives.
The subsequent Operation Twilight at Atia Mahal on March 24, untangled the militants’ web a little further.
“The militants in Borohat were building and supplying explosives to the militants at Atia Mahal. One of the militants had gone to Panthapara before Operation Twilight had began, detonated two bombs near Atia Mahal to provide the militants there a chance to escape and then returned to Borohat,” said DMP Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam.
Monirul, who is also the chief of CTTC, added that a small CTTC team had traced the movements of the bomber and had managed to uncover information about the Borohat den in Moulvibazar.
According to another CTTC official, this bomber was the same bomb expert they had gleaned information about from the Sitakunda raid.
Seeking anonymity, another top CTTC official, however, told the Dhaka Tribune: “More than one militant might have been involved with the Pathanpara blasts.”
At Borohat, law enforcement officials were able to gather information regarding another militant den at Nasirpur. The remoteness of the location, and the fact that 10 or 12 militants were suspected to be located there led CTTC to first raid the Nasirpur location before beginning at Borohat.
In line with the modus operandi employed by the militants at each hideout, the Nasirpur militants killed themselves in order to evade arrest. The three adult militants placed the four children between them and detonated their suicide vests.
“The militants at Borohat were acting as back-up for the Atia Mahal militants,” said CTTC chief Monirul, after the conclusion of the 30-hour long Operation Maximus in Borohat.
“The Borohat den was a bomb-making factory for all these militant dens. Comparing the explosives and weaponry found at each of the locations, we have been able to spot similarities among them. There are still a lot of active bombs at each location which the Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) is working on defusing.”
He also said since Operation Twilight took five days to complete, the militants at Borohat had received plenty of time to prepare and had made quite a large stash of bombs.
Till date, a total of 14 adult militants, along with five children, and a total of nine police officials, including RAB Intelligence Wing chief Lt Col Abul Kalam Azad, have died during the anti-militancy raids.
What happened in Borohat?
On March 28, acting on information passed on by CTTC, local police cordoned off two suspected militant dens at Nasirpur and Borohat in Moulvibazar.
“After assessing the situation, we called in Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) and BDU from Dhaka to lead the operation,” said Sylhet Range’ Deputy Inspector General Kamrul Ahsan.
By Wednesday, March 29, the surrounding areas had been evacuated and Section 144, a restriction on gatherings and public movement, was imposed on Nasirpur and Borohat.
On Friday, March 31, the SWAT team launched Operation Maximus in Borohat after concluding the 33-hour Operation Hit Back in Nasirpur.
Throughout the day, sounds of sporadic gunshots and explosions could be heard.
At night, two huge blasts rocked the building and smoke could be seen coming out the windows.
DMP Additional Commissioner Monirul said: “This time, SWAT took all necessary measures to avoid any casualties or damage.”
At around 12:30pm Saturday, the Borohat operation was officially over.
According to Rowshanuzzaman Siddique, additional superintendent of police of Moulvibazar district, most of the rooms had been destroyed by the explosions which occurred when the militants activated their suicide vests. There were also several active improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed throughout the duplex residence.
The CTTC chief added that of the three militants – two males and one female – two of them were a couple who had gone into a bathroom where they detonated their vests. The other had activated his vest in one of the other rooms. Prior to killing themselves, they had burned all the documents and money they had in their possession.
The autopsies have been set for today at the Moulvibazar Sadar Hospital. Section 144 is still active within 300 metres of the Borohat den but has been withdrawn from the nearby areas.