Target Aug 15 Mourners: Terror attack plan foiled
A suspected suicide bomber of “Neo JMB” was killed during an anti-militancy operation at a city hotel yesterday as counterterrorism officials claim he had planned to carry out an attack on the crowd paying homage to Bangabandhu on National Mourning Day at Dhanmondi 32.
The hotel is around half a kilometre off Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, the historic house in Dhanmondi where the Father of the Nation was brutally killed along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.
“The militant chose the nearby hotel as part of a plan to melt into a procession and carry out a suicide attack on the gathering at Dhanmondi 32,” said Monirul Islam, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the DMP.
The dead has been identified as Saiful Islam, son of Abul Khair of Dumuria in Khulna. He studied in a madrasa and a government college and was once involved with Islami Chhatra Shibir, a pro-Jamaat student body, according to police.
His father, imam of a local mosque, was also involved in Jamaat politics, officials said.
With Saiful, so far 69 suspected militants either died in police shooting or blew themselves up by detonating suicide vests during at least 22 anti-terror drives across the country since the Gulshan café attack on July 1 last year. Besides, around 150 got arrested.
During yesterday's seven-hour operation codenamed “August Bite” starting at 4:00am, Saiful “blasted two bombs” while members of the bomb disposal unit of the DMP defused three others at the hotel, police say.
“The bombs were powerful,” Monirul said after a post-operation briefing on the spot around 12:30pm.
The terror plot also targeted world headlines and a boost to the militant group that has been nearly crushed following different successful anti-terror operations, he added.
Monirul said they had some indistinct intelligence that “Neo JMB” had planned to carry out a massive attack on the death anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as a huge number of people gather at Dhanmondi 32 on the occasion.
While working on the information, police came to know that one or more militants took position in the surrounding areas, and they conducted block raids for the last few days.
During a raid yesterday, police knocked all the rooms of Hotel Olio International at Panthapath. Guests in all rooms, except for No 301 on the third floor of the four-storey building, opened the door, police said.
“Arousing suspicion, he [the guest] said he would not open the door before dawn,” Monirul said.
Law enforcers saw through a window a bag and some electric wires and padlocked the door.
Soon SWAT and the bomb disposal unit reached the spot.
Monirul said they repeatedly requested Saiful to surrender but he did not. At one stage, SWAT decided to launch the operation.
“When SWAT members marched towards the door constantly firing gunshots and teargas canisters into the room, Saiful blasted a bomb.”
As the door collapsed, Saiful came out with another bomb and tried to detonate it. SWAT members continued firing and the bomb went off, Monirul added.
Ferozur Rahman Olio, owner of the building, said he recently rented the hotel out to one of his acquaintances named Nurul Islam.
Quoting the hotel manager, Ferozur said Saiful had submitted all the necessary papers to book the room at Tk 800 per night, before checking in three days earlier. The room is at a corner.
Asked if there is any CCTV installed at the hotel, Ferozur said, “The CCTV is not active right now, but it was working earlier.”
EXPLOSION AND DAMAGE
There was a huge explosion at 9:44am following the firing of two teargas canisters. It filled the area with smoke and then shooting continued for at least 15 seconds.
After a pause of a couple of minutes, gunshots were heard for several seconds. Then there was calm until a bomb recovered from the spot was defused around 11:45am.
Journalists were kept around 100 yards off the hotel.
After police relaxed the security, visiting the spot it was seen that a portion of the third floor of the hotel was blown away, while brick chunks, shattered glasses and pieces of window grills were scattered on the road.
Bullet marks and blood stains were on the wall. The wooden doors and glass windows of two to three rooms, including No 301, were damaged. Furniture and beddings were thrown out onto the street.
A black handbag was found tattered on the road; police say it was for carrying the bomb that was exploded first.
The impact of the explosion created cracks on an adjacent building.
A pedestrian who was at an alley close by got injured in the blast. He took treatment at Square Hospital.
The body of the suspected militant, as seen in the pictures circulated by law enforcers, apparently was burnt and hit with bullets. There is no sign of mutilation as seen in other suicide bombings in different hideouts.
There was a wave of panic in the adjacent areas with police restricting movement from Green Road to Russell Square.
Several security guards of nearby Square Hospital said they locked all gates of the hospital early morning knowing about a possible raid.
Ramjan Ali, who works at Monami International's warehouse just opposite the hotel, said rubbles flying after the blast even fell on their tin-shed structure.
Briefing journalists at the spot, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said Saiful was involved with Shibir during his student life.
The IGP added that if Saiful was not involved with Jamaat-Shibir, he would not have planned an attack the day the country is mourning Bangabandhu.