A member of the new faction of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) blew himself up on Tuesday at a hotel on Panthapath situated only about 300m away from the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum during a raid, police said.
The incident took place just three hours after President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other government higher-ups paid respect to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the museum in Dhanmondi, Dhaka on the occasion of National Mourning Day.
According to police, Saiful Islam, 21, a former Islami Chhatra Shibir activist, had moved into a third-floor room of Hotel Olio International on Sunday and was planning to launch a bomb attack on the processions heading to the museum to pay tribute to Bangabandhu on Tuesday.
“Detectives had received intelligence beforehand about the bomb attack,” Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said after a visit at the scene.
Acting on a tip-off, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) had cordoned off the hotel early on Tuesday and began their operation later in the morning around 10am after the VVIPs and VIPs left the area.
Sources said the militant exploded two bombs before he died, leaving the four-storey building partially ravaged.
A security guard of the nearby Al Arafah Islami Bank also received a minor head injury after being hit by a stray bullet during the raid.
A security guard of the nearby Al Arafah Islami Bank also received a minor head injury after being hit by a stray bullet during the raid
Finding the militant
During a routine search ahead of on Tuesday’s events, police had entered Hotel Olio International around 2:45am, New Market police station OC Atikur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune.
Police then started waking up the boarders cross-checking them with the hotel’s registry book in the presence of the manager.
“We found Saiful Islam inside room No 301 around 3:15am. He did not respond to our knocks at first. After a while, he responded but refused to open the door and talk to us.
“Later, he opened a window as we kept insisting, but he did not turn on the light. Then one of us used a flashlight to have a good look at him inside the dark room and that is when we saw him dragging a black bag and some suspicious looking wires on the window,” OC Atikur said.
“We also saw some wires and cables beside his bag. After that, finding his behaviour suspicious, we locked the room from outside and notified the higher-ups,” he added.
Roktim Nafak, a security guard of a nearby building, said police brought the other boarders out of the hotel around 3:30am while members of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team cordoned off the building.
CTTC Unit sources said SWAT and the bomb disposal unit had rushed to the scene. The second raid, christened “Operation August Bite,” started around 9:45am after Saiful, who hailed from Khulna’s Dumuria, refused to surrender.
“SWAT members had lobbed a smoking grenade inside Saiful’s room to smoke him out when he threw the first bomb which heavily damaged his room’s window, the corridor and the wall which fell on the street,” CTTC Unit chief Monirul Islam said.
“When SWAT members opened fire, Saiful came out with another bomb and exploded it. He possibly died from that blast,” he added.
The operation ended around 1pm while the DMP’s crime scene unit processed the spot. Later, Saiful’s body was sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital for an autopsy.
Al Arafah Islami Bank security guard Sharif Miah, injured by a stray bullet, however, went home after receiving treatment at Square Hospital, sources said.
Panic and questions
From the early hours of on Tuesday, residents of the area were in a panicked state as police had cordoned off the building. Panic spread when the locals heard explosions and gunshots.
After the operation, many people were seen wondering how the militant managed to bring the explosives inside the hotel room with the security beefed up in the area on the National Mourning Day.
Sources said Saiful had come to Dhaka on August 7 and checked into the hotel on Sunday.
Seeking anonymity, a high-ranking police official told the Dhaka Tribune: “We do not know yet how Saiful brought the explosives inside his room. We are questioning the hotel manager.
“But our security measures cannot be questioned, because we have stopped the militant. If there was lack of security, it would have been tougher to stop him.”
The management of the building, which houses Hotel Olio International, said it was rented to a businessman named Nur Islam six months ago.
Nur Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: “That youth [Saiful] had nothing with him when he checked in three days ago. He must have brought in the explosives later.”
Kalabagan police searched the hotel on Sunday and Monday, said Nur. “Police had talked to him during those raids. Now what can I do if he brings in explosives secretly?”
He also said Sher-e-Bangla Nagar police on Sunday had instructed Hotel Olio Dream Heaven, situated directly on the opposite side, not to take new guests. “But we were not instructed by Kalabagan police to do the same.”