Morningbell Desk, 28 March 2017: Four alleged militants, including a woman, were killed as army commandos continued ‘Operation Twilight’ inside ‘Atia Mahal’, the suspected den, in Shibbari area of Sylhet, according to army. Army spokesperson Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan told media yesterday evening that they were yet to call an end to their operation but added that Atia Mahal was completely under their control. Of the four killed, two bodies were handed out to police, while two other bodies were found inside Atia Mahal yesterday, Ahsan said on the third day of the operation.
Briefing the media near the site around 7:30pm, Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan, also the director of military intelligence, said the two bodies were still inside the building and that the slain militants wore suicide vests before being gunned down. So, moving the bodies was still risky and the commandos were planning on how to bring those out of the building, he said. The army, he said, will continue Operation Twilight as the building was wired with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). “The building will collapse if all the explosives were to explode,” he said.
Since the whole building is very risky, we have to move very carefully, he said. About the militants, Gen Ahsan said they were very well trained. “The militants were well-trained. You must congratulate the army for the success in eliminating them,” he said. He also said that the commandos have evacuated all 78 civilians from the building under fire and thus it was a major achievement. This same commando battalion had finished the siege at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan on July 2 last year – a day after Islamist militants took hostages and killed nearly twenty of them.
Answering to a query, Gen Ahsan said Operation Twilight never got out of the army’s hand. Asked whether there were any top militants among the four killed, Ahsan said he was not sure and that the police and Rapid Action Battalion will collect samples to identify the bodies.
Replying to a question, he said probably there were no militants alive inside the building. In response to another query, Gen Ahsan said they will be handing the site to the police after ending their operation. The police will carry forward the next procedures as per their rules, he said.
Earlier in the day, local people told journalists that they heard repeated sounds of heavy explosions and gunshots from 6am. These continued till 3:30 pm at brief intervals. After a day of intense firing and restrictions around Shibbari, a fire broke out.
Eyewitnesses said huge smoke was billowing out of the ground floor around 3:45pm. A Fire Services and Civil Defence (FSCD) team rushed to the spot and brought the situation under control.
Two units doused the fire within 20 minutes. Later, the commandos entered the building again, giving a hint that the Operation Twilight was at its final stage. Meanwhile, police filed two cases in connection with the two powerful blasts that killed six people, including two police officers, near Atia Mahal in Shibbari area on Saturday evening.
Sub-inspector of Moglabazar Police Station Shiplu Chowdhury filed the cases around 11pm on Sunday, accusing unknown persons. Inspector Khairul Fazal, the officer-in-charge of the police station, confirmed it. One of the two cases was filed over the killings of six persons and another was filed under the Explosives Act.
However, the number of the accused was not mentioned in the cases, the OC said.
The additional deputy commissioner of Sylhet Metropolitan Police said: “We’ve handed over the bodies of Shahidul Islam and Khadim Shah, who were among the six killed on Saturday, to their families after collecting DNA samples.”
Meanwhile, residents of the area were facing problems as there were no food supplies, gas, or power connections. People were ordered to stay inside their houses and Section 144 was imposed in the area.
Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) posted video footages and more photos of Operation Twilight on its official website.