The residents of Atia Mahal started returning to the building, but only to retrieve their belongings on Tuesday as the building is no longer inhabitable.
Having visited the site of Operation Twilight in Sylhet, the Dhaka Tribune found the building riddled with bullets from the recent fight with the ground floor completely destroyed.
Two walls on the ground floor are gone, the railings are burnt, all the grills on the windows are blown off and have not been replaced.
Utility supplies are still discontented and the whole place reeks of flesh, the stench of death still hanging in the air.
Former residents entering the building with police escorts to retrieve their belongings said they would never be able to live there again.
Piyali Chowdhury, who used to live on the ground floor opposite the militant den at Atia Mahal, on Tuesday told the Dhaka Tribune: “The commandos entered the building through the back of wall of my flat.
“Everything was destroyed during the five-day-long operation. All my furniture is gone, even the deed to my land has been burned. This is the first time I have been back here after 17 days to get anything that can be saved. I cannot ever live here again.”
Veterinary Physician Shyamsundor Ghosh also lived on the ground floor and escaped with the help of the commandos before the operation.
“I have lost belongings worth Tk5 lakh and the whole flat is destroyed. The fridge has somehow survived the whole ordeal,” he said, adding that it actually did not matter as he and his family were alive after going through such a harrowing ordeal that they did not think they would survive.
“We thought we would die that day, we were just counting the time … then the commandos broke the bathroom wall and got us out of there.”
Nipa Begum, however, came back to her third floor flat to find that all her gold and cash of Tk85,000 was all there, untouched where she left it.
On March 24, police cordoned off the Atia Mahal as a militant hideout. Army para-commandos joined the raid the next day. A total of 78 people were rescued and all four militants died in the operation. Bodies of two militants were retrieved on March 27.
All four militants blew themselves up to evade arrest.
However, the commandos managed to evacuate the 78 residents of the building on March 25 at the start of Operation Twilight.
After the operation ended, bomb disposal units of different law enforcement agencies were sweeping for explosives which ended on April 10 and the building was then handed back to the owner Ustar Mia.