15-hour raid on 'JMB den'
In a 15-hour crackdown in a militant den on the capital's Mirpur, detectives yesterday seized 16 improvised grenades, other ingredients, including power gel enough to make over 200 bombs and grenades, and a suicide vest, police said.
Six youths, aged between 20 and 30, were said to be arrested during the raid at two apartments on the top floor of a six-storey building in Shah Ali area.
Two of them are key operatives of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and the four others are suspected militants, detectives said, but did not disclose their identities.
The JMB men were arrested from one of the two apartments where the grenades and chemicals were stockpiled in toilet, kitchen, trunks and sacks, according to police.
Joint Commissioner of Detective Branch of police Monirul Islam said the JMB had been using the den to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
But those who make the IEDs and train others to make explosives could not be arrested, he added.
Monirul also said the seized grenades were similar to that used at the Shia gathering at Hossaini Dalan in old Dhaka and those recovered from Kamrangirchar in the capital in October.
DB's Additional Deputy Commissioner Sanwar Hossain, who led the drive, told The Daily Star that they raided the building on information from a JMB man arrested on Wednesday night from the area.
Along with the arrested militant, a team of DB's bomb disposal unit raided the building (house no. 3) on Road-9 in Block A around 1:30am. As the team reached there, the arrested JMB man told the law enforcers that there was a huge stockpile of grenades and bomb-making materials there.
The team then called in a SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) squad and more uniformed force to prevent casualty and ensure a successful drive, Sanwar said.
Police cordoned off the building during the operation. Rab members and a fire fighting unit were also called in. Tenants were evacuated before the raid began sometime after 9:00am.
Having received no response to their calls to open the door, law enforcers broke into the apartment, when the militants charged a grenade.
In response, a DB team went on the rooftop and blasted several sound grenades and blank shots to scare the militants. They also threw gas grenades inside the room where the two militants kept themselves locked.
After this, the law enforcers managed to enter the room and arrest the two JMB operatives. The four others were arrested from the opposite flat.
Locals identified the four as Nahid and Mamun, fourth semester students at a private university; Nahid's nephew Raj, an intermediate student at a city college; and Kamal, an employee at an online shopping company.
After the drive, detectives took away the explosives and other substances in three small plastic sacks in a microbus.
Journalists were not allowed to enter the flat or see what was in the sacks.
Later, the DB's bomb disposal unit defused 17 bombs at a nearby field close to local Sarangbari mosque. DB officials said most of the bombs were made with iron pipes between three and four inches long. One was made with nearly a foot-long pipe.
Sanwar said the bombs contained power gel, other explosives, shrapnel and safety pins.
Asked about the vest, Sanwar said it was a jacket normally used to carry grenades, bombs and other equipment. “It was not a suicide vest,” he added.
The raid ended around 4:30pm and police sealed the apartment from where the explosives were seized and two JMB men were said to be arrested.
Dozens of journalists and hundreds of locals were at the scene. The Daily Star spoke with many of them, but no one could say when the police took away the two. They only saw police to take away the four others arrested on suspicion.
Abul Hossain Bhuiyan, the house owner, said four youths rented the house about four months ago for Tk 9,000 a month, identifying themselves as students of Mirpur Bangla College. They were apparently modest and paid their rent regularly.
Around the same time, four other youths rented the opposite flat, added Abul.
Nasima Begum, a woman who lives in a tin-shed building close to the building, said, “There were a lot of policemen everywhere since the daybreak. Around 9:00am, I heard broken glass falling on our roof. Scared, I left my house with my children.”