Shibbari siege ends, 4 militants killed

ipl news

Para-commandos have finished the siege at Sylhet’s Shibbari, killing at least four militants holed up there.

But the operation is far from over, with two of the dead militants wired up with suicide vests and a whole host of explosives rigged across the ‘Atia Mahal’, army spokesperson Brig Gen Fakhrul Ahsan told reporters on Monday evening.

But he said the multi-storeyed ‘Atia Mahal’ was now under their control.

Two bodies have already been handed over to the police, he said. “There are suicide vests on the two other bodies. So moving them out is still a risky proposition.”

Brig Gen Ahsan said the intelligence provided by the police about number of suspects and their gender was proved correct.

“Three of those killed were men, one a woman. We don’t believe anyone else is inside. No one was able to get out.”

The army, he said, will continue ‘Operation Twilight’ on the buildings still booby-trapped with ‘many bombs’. “The building will be substantially damaged if all these were to explode.”

“Our operation will take some more time. We will proceed with instructions from our superiors.”

The two buildings, with a militant hideout in one of its lower-storey flats, have been cordoned off since early Friday. The building’s owner, Ustar Ali, earlier said a couple, Kauser Ali and Morjina Begum, rented a lower-storey flat three months ago.

Kauser claimed he worked as an audit officer with Pran Foods Ltd.

Brig Gen Ahsan said ‘Operation Twilight’, running into the fourth day on Monday, ‘never got out of hand’.

“The militants we found were well-trained. You must see their elimination as a big success for the army,” he said.

The para-commandos took over the operation from the police on Saturday and christened it ‘Operation Twilight’.

Later that day, a bomb attack killed six people, including two policemen, in the outer cordon of the siege at Shibbari on the outskirts of Sylhet.

On Sunday, the para-commandos claimed killing at least two militants, but Brig Gen Ahsan said the army would proceed carefully to avoid casualties. The two were shot by commandos ‘who spotted them running’.

He said the commandos have evacuated 78 civilians from the buildings under siege under fire – a priority and thus a major achievement.

This same battalion, headed by Lt Col Imrul Hasan, had finished the siege at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan on Jul 2 last year – a day after Islamist militants took hostages and killed 22 people.

Bursts of gunfire and explosions were heard near the location. Videos released by the army’s PR wing, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), showed commandos making a hole on a building’s wall with axes and hammers.

“We are all very proud of this brave operation. You can be proud too. Thanks to your prayers, we have ended this siege without any casualties on our side,” said the army official.

Reporters asked him about smoke that was seen billowing out of the building complex at noon.

“Fires are usual because of the sheer amount of ammunition and grenades we used here. It’s possible that some bedding caught fire. There can be a number of reasons. But we put the fire out.

The buildings’ control will be handed over to police once the operation ends, he said.

Police said they got information about the Shibbari hideout in the days following its operations at two militant hideouts at Chittagong’s Sitakunda.

Counter-terror detectives were targeted with grenades thrown from inside the Shibbari building when they tried to approach it around 3am Friday.

Police threw a cordon around the building complex, and using loud speakers, began asking the suspects to surrender. A female suspect was heard rejecting the calls. At one point a man said: “Why are you wasting time … send in the SWAT!”

SWAT and bomb-disposal teams from Dhaka arrived at the location on Friday afternoon to begin Operation Spring Rain.

The SWAT team retreated seeing the intensity of the situation, according to army officials who took over the operation the next day.

Operation Spring Rain was then rechristened to Operation Twilight on Saturday.

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