A tip-off from a top militant, who thought it's about time he shunned the path of terrorism and returned to normal life, helped detectives track down the alleged mastermind of Gulshan attack, Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.
A close aide to Tamim, the militant revealed to law enforcers the possible hideout of the terror kingpin.
The piece of information, obtained only hours before the Narayanganj operation yesterday, earned the counterterrorism unit of the DMP success in hunting down the most sought after man in recent time.
“Around 3:00am [yesterday], the aide to Tamim gave us the vital information following which we launched the operation at a militant hideout in Narayaganj,” said Monirul Islam, chief of the counterterrorism unit.
He said the aide is not in police custody.
Tamim, who had Tk 20 lakh bounty on his head, was killed along with two accomplices in the operation codenamed “Hit Strong 27” at their hideout in Paikpara of Narayanganj.
The identities of the two other militants could not be known.
Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim identified himself as Shaykh Abu Ibrahim Al-Hanif, the "Amir of the Khilafah's Soldiers in Bengal," in the 12th issue of Islamic State's propaganda magazine Dabiq in November last year.
Officials, however, rule out any organisational presence of IS in Bangladesh. They say Tamim was the coordinator of “Neo JMB”.
Operatives of the banned local outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), who became inactive after Saidur Rahman took over as the chief, formed the “Neo JMB” inspired by IS ideologies.
According to police, Tamim masterminded the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks carried out by home-grown militants.
Police on August 1 announced Tk 20 lakh bounty each on Tamim and another terror kingpin, sacked army officer Ziaul Huq.
“The chapter of Tamim is closed today. The chapter of Zia will also end soon. The administration is continuing its efforts to arrest him,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists at the scene after the hour-long special drive, which began around 9:30am.
He said one of Tamim's most important accomplices was also killed in the operation.
The operation “Hit Strong 27” came a month after another such raid on a militant hideout in Dhaka's Kalyanpur.
In the Kalyanpur operation on July 26, nine suspected militants were shot dead.
Immediately after officials got the information about Tamim's hideout, a Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) team under the counterterrorism unit along with DMP's bomb disposal unit rushed to Narayanganj.
“We pinpointed the hideout around 6:30am and cordoned off the building at 6:45am,” ADC Sanwar Hossain of the counterterrorism unit told The Daily Star.
“We asked the terrorists to surrender. But, around 8:30am, they opened fire and hurled grenades,” he said.
The militants fired shots from an AK-22 semiautomatic rifle. They also burnt some important documents and partially damaged some mobile phones and laptops.
Some important pieces of evidence were, however, collected by police.
The team launched “two dimensional” attacks. Around 9:30am, a group of 15 SWAT members stormed the hideout -- a flat on the top floor of a three-storey building -- firing shots from sophisticated weapons.
Others started shooting from snipers from nearby buildings, said Additional Deputy Commissioner Ashiqur Rahman, who led the SWAT team. Forty of his men went to the scene.
The militants hurled several grenades and fired around 50 to 60 rounds of bullets, he added.
“As we barged into a room of the three-room flat on the top floor, two militants opened fire and hurled grenades. But our skilled personnel managed to gun them down.”
Tamim was staying in a separate room. “He too tried to explode a grenade but was shot and killed.”
The bodies of the three militants were taken to Narayanganj General Hospital around 6:00pm on completion of inquest report. They were later sent to Dhaka Medical College for autopsy.
Police picked up at least 10 people, including house owner Nuruddin and his family members for interrogation.
The detainees include two kids of a tenant named Solaiman.
Police found an AK-22 rifle, one pistol, several magazines and a binocular.
They also recovered four live grenades -- two from inside the flat and two more that the militants threw at police from the roof of an adjacent tin-shed house. Police later defused those.
The three-storey building, located in Paikpara area under Narayanganj City Corporation, is some three kilometres south of Chasara Bus Stand.
There are two flats on its top floor and the militants lived in the flat on the northern side. Police said Tamim had been staying there for a few days.
A family lived in the other flat but these correspondents could not know their identities.
The building is surrounded by eight to 10 tin-shed houses and those too are owned by Nuruddin.
A tenant of one of the tin-shed houses said a resident from the north-side flat came to him on Thursday and asked whether there was any vacant tin-shed house. “When I replied in the positive, the man inquired a bit more and left.”
Mohammad Emon, a neighbour whose house is just 50 yards from the spot, said they always found the windows of the flat closed.
Selina Khanam, a resident of a nearby building facing the flat, said, “We never saw clothes hanging in the veranda. We just saw lights on at night for about two months.”
House owner Nuruddin, who lives on the first floor of the building, said two youths identifying themselves as staff of a private company rented the flat for Tk seven thousand per month on July 1.
The two said the flat was being rented for three persons. He could remember only two names -- Murad and Rana.
ADC Sanwar, however, said the militants rented the house on July 5.
Several images of the bodies of Tamim and his two accomplices have surfaced hours after the raid. Tamim is seen lying face down, dead. He sports French-cut beard, neatly trimmed.
One of the two accomplices had an AK-22 semi-automatic weapon slung across his tummy. All the three had black t-shirts on. Another photo shows a machete and a knife lying on a blood-smeared floor.
At 9:30pm yesterday, police headquarters released nine photographs of the three bodies from different angles.
Seeing the photographs of the three dead militants, Tofayel Ahmed, the owner of a tea-stall around 300 yards from the den, claimed that the man with the rifle in the picture had tea with the house owner at his shop on Thursday.
Nuruddin was seen arguing with the man for more details about the tenants, he said.
Police said the three-room flat had very few furniture just as the Kalyanpur den.
After the operation ended around 10:30am, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque at the spot said, “They [the militants] were asked to come out with their hands in the air. They were given the chance to surrender.
"But they hurled four to five grenades and opened fire, leading the police to retaliate."
He went on, "Our snipers also fired from adjacent buildings.
"The final operation lasted an hour. We found three bodies inside. One of them matched perfectly with Tamim's picture and description we have. It's clear that he is Tamim."
The IGP further said that before the operation, police became sure that there were no women and children inside the flat.
Replying to a query whether the house owner provided tenants' information, he said they have to investigate the matter.
He, however, said the house owner assisted them.
Meanwhile, the CID collected fingerprints of the three militants to check if they match with those stored in the database of National ID to confirm their identity.