Moments of terror that played out in Sholakia
Around 8:50am on Thursday, the schoolteacher was on his way to Shaheedi Mosque, about half a kilometre from Sholakia, to join an Eid congregation. Just as he crossed a police checkpoint at the entrance of Azim Uddin High School, he heard a big bang.
Without thinking much, he started running and stopped only after he thought he was a good 100 yards away, near a rail track on the west side of the school.
“First, I thought it was the traditional gunshots fired before the beginning of the Eid prayers at the Sholakia Eid congregation. But the sound was not normal. It was huge,” said the 35-year-old local schoolteacher standing on the school ground.
When he looked at the checkpoint to check what has happened, he saw three policemen were downed and they were throwing their arms and legs in the air. “One youth was hacking the policemen one after another.”
One of the policemen managed to escape and take cover near the school building, where there were not that many people at the time.
“Another youth was throwing bombs here and there, creating panic … The first youth even took away the arms of the injured policemen.”
In the meantime, some 35 to 40 policemen who were on the southern part of the school field started to march towards the spot, opening fire. But they could not get anywhere near it because of the persistent bombing by the attackers.
Also, the Munshi Azim Uddin (Rahmania) Government Primary School building was creating obstacles for them to target the attackers.
“At one point, some 30 to 40 of us who gathered near the rail line started shouting: ‘catch, catch’. But they were not scared at all,” the teacher added, asking not to be named.
The attackers, wearing panjabis and pajamas, stood their ground for about half an hour before leaving.
Another eyewitness gave an almost identical account of the attack, which left two policemen and a woman dead. At least 13 others, including eight police members, were also injured.
Police later shot and killed one of the alleged attackers and detained two.
The second witness, a 65-year-old local businessman, was on his way to the Sholakia Eidgagh around 8:45am. When he was near the Azim Uddin High School building, he heard an explosion.
“I thought children blasted crackers, but it was not,” he told this correspondent at his house in the evening.
“I was standstill. After a few moments, I saw something moving near the entrance of the school. I could not understand at first what that was.
“I thought someone might have been injured in a cocktail explosion. I backtracked. Then I saw two men there…. One of them was hacking a man [a cop it later transpired] with a machete…. Then I realised they were criminals.”
“Whenever he [the cop] tried to stand up, the attacker hit him,” he said, adding one youth wore a blue panjabi and the other a white one.
He heard sounds of explosions for about 10 minutes. At one point, one attacker threw several firearms on top of a nearby shed. Meantime, police opened fire from the southern side of the school field and after sometime, the attackers retreated.
First, three policemen came at the spot. Then more of them.
Five more injured police personnel were carried to the spot from different parts of the area.
“They were hacked indiscriminately on different parts of their bodies,” he said, adding, “The man [policeman] whom I saw being hacked might not survive.”
Police later recovered five to six firearms from the shed after the witness pointed it out to them.