A massive explosion rocked Jamiatul Uloom Al-Islamia Lalkhan Bazar, a Qawmi madrasa run by senior nayeb-e-ameer of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh Mufti Izharul Islam, on Monday morning leaving at least five persons critically injured.
The police recovered three home-made grenades and a large quantity of grenade-making materials from the place in the afternoon, and arrested nine people which includes three teachers. Four of them were arrested from two private hospitals while undergoing treatment.
Police, however, could not confirm how many grenades were blasted.
During raids conducted at night, law enforcers recovered 18 bottles of acid on the madrasa premises, eight of which were found at the residence of Mufti Izhar, principal of the madrasa.
While visiting the place, the windows of a side of the room were found blown away, window grills bent and the ceiling fans badly damaged. Cracks had developed on the walls of the room while plasters in the ceiling and walls also buckled in some spots.
The madrasa students dumped some damaged materials near a bush adjacent to the building soon after the incident where several fingers of a human hand were found attached with wrist skin.
About 200 lead-coated marbles were also found among the piles of rubble.
Shafiqul Islam, commissioner of Chittagong Metropolitan Police, while visiting the site in the afternoon, said the explosion and recovery of the grenades and raw materials were a matter of concern as the prime minister was scheduled to visit the city on October 12.
“We have already launched investigation and persons responsible behind the incident will be brought to the book immediately,” he added.
The CMP commissioner also said they were confirmed about a large stockpile of explosives at the madrasa during the blast.
The police conducted a raid at the campus residence of Mufti Izhar around 8:15pm when eight bottles of acid were recovered. Izhar and his family members were not present during the drive.
Later in a drive on the campus, police arrested five others including teachers of the madrasa and recovered 10 bottles of acid from their possessions.
Harunur Rashid Hazari, deputy commissioner of the CMP’s north zone, said explosives and crime scene experts had collected samples from the spot soon after the blast for investigation.
Mohammed Shahidullah, additional deputy commissioner of the north zone, said the explosion was a big one as the window grills and ceiling fans of the room had been smashed badly when cracks had also developed on its walls.
He said they had recovered three live grenades, one attached to a mobile phone apparently to blast the bomb using remote control, and huge quantity of materials used to make grenades.
He suspected that the explosion occurred during manufacturing of the grenades.
“We have arrested four of the injured from two private hospitals in the city,” Shahidullah said adding that a number of their teams had been conducting drives at different parts of the city to nub the other persons responsible for the incident.
Of the four, one was Mohammad Nurun Nabi, a student of Chittagong Polytechnic Institute, while the police could not confirm identities of the three others immediately. Nabi suffered 90% burn injury and was taken to Dhaka for better treatment.
Maulana Abu Sayeed, a teacher of the madrasa, said the blast was caused by an IPS explosion and that five students – Abdullah, Karim, Khaleque, Amanullah and Zabbar – were injured.
A student, Jahirul Islam, said he was in an adjacent room during the explosion and saw fire after he had come out hearing a big bang.
Soon after the explosion, Mufti Izhar told reporters that he had heard a big bang from the Darul Iftah department’s dormitory at about 11am when he was working at his office room. He then sent several students to see what had happened.
“The students returned to my room after a few minutes and informed me that an explosion took place from a laptop,” he claimed adding that five students of masters’ class of the Darul Ifta department had sustained injuries during the incident.
Within few seconds of the comment, Izhar shifted from his stance and claimed that the explosion was from an Instant Power Supply (IPS) device.
The Hefazat leader stayed at his office room until afternoon. However, later he was not found there to make further comments after the recovery of grenades and other materials.
A huge contingent of police and Rab personnel had been deployed on the madrasa campus since the explosion.
Hefazat is a Hathazari-based radical Islamist organisation comprising teachers and students from Qawmi madrasas. Formed in 2010, the group resurfaced in February this year demanding death penalty for the organisers of Shahbagh movement terming them “atheists.”
Youths active in social media launched the Shahbagh movement in February protesting “lenient” life term punishment handed down to Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla for war crimes he committed during 1971 Liberation War. The Shahbagh youths had also demanded highest punishment to all war criminals and banning of Jamaat.
Having support and representation mainly of the opposition alliance led by the BNP and Jamaat in its central and unit committees, Hefazat launched a long march and a Dhaka blockade in April and May as they put forward their 13-point demands that include enacting anti-blasphemy law. The controversial demands include repeal of anti-Islamic laws and stopping free mixing of men and women.