Three people including a woman were killed when Bangladesh security forces stormed an Islamist militant hideout Saturday, police said, as the Muslim-majority nation fights to contain a wave of extremist attacks.
The incident was the latest battle against militants in recent days, which have involved hostage-taking, deadly explosions and gunfights at multiple hideouts in several locations in northeastern areas of the country.
Saturday’s assault saw a SWAT team enter a duplex in Moulvibazar town that they had surrounded since Wednesday, pitting police against what they believe is a new militant faction.
The head of the counter-terrorism unit Monirul Islam told reporters that it was not clear if the people they discovered dead inside had died from police fire, or if they had blown themselves up.
Police said those inside were from a new wing of an extremist group that the government has blamed for a wave of deadly attacks targeting foreigners and religious minorities in recent years, including an attack last year on a Dhaka cafe where 22 people, mostly foreigners, were killed by armed terrorists.
The Islamic State group has taken credit for the bomb attacks but the government has rejected the claim and instead blamed the banned homegrown Islamist organisation, Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Eight people, including women, were found dead after a police raid earlier this week in a nearby house, which is owned by the same person as the property in Saturday’s incident — a British citizen of Bangladesh-origin.
Last week army commandos stormed a five-storey building in the nearby city of Sylhet to free dozens of hostages, triggering a violent three-day stand-off.
At least four militants died and another six people, including two police officers, were killed when two bombs went off near a crowd watching the operation.
One of the explosions fatally injured the intelligence chief of Rapid Action Battalion — the elite force which has been at the forefront of the country’s fight against Islamist militancy — a big blow to the security forces.
“One of the bodies (found in Moulvibazar town) was of the man who most possibly led the Sylhet bomb attacks,” Islam said.
Since the Dhaka cafe attack, security forces have launched a nationwide crackdown on Islamist extremist groups, killing around 65 suspected militants.