A probe by Bangladesh authorities into a gun battle between security forces and suspected militants earlier this week has thrown up key information about six suspected militant commanders, investigators and a news report said on Saturday.
During a major drive on Tuesday, nine suspected militants were gunned down in an apartment in Dhaka’s Kalyanpur area. Authorities described the overnight operation as “very successful” as only one police official was slightly injured.
A tenth suspected militant, Rakibul Hasan alias Regan, was captured by security forces as he tried to escape from a multi-storey building that was raided. He was questioned by investigators while being treated for bullet injuries .
Jugantor, a leading Bengali newspaper, reported on Saturday that Regan told investigators about militant commanders operating in Bangladesh and details about them had been confirmed by security officials.
The newspaper said these commanders, who have all been identified, have arms and grenades.
Investigators said they also found some important information in a laptop found at the scene of Tuesday’s raid. They also found a detailed plot to target places across the country and an audio message stored in electronic devices, Jugantor reported.
The investigators uncovered details about Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, a Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi origin, who is leading a violent campaign in the country in the name of Islamic State. Chowdhury is believed to be the mastermind of attacks on a café in Dhaka’s Gulshan area and an Eid congregation in Kishoreganj district a few days later.
Investigators also uncovered details about Ripon, an operational commander of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) linked to 11 attacks in northern Bangladesh since last year. Ripon is involved in running the JMB’s operations in northwestern Rajshahi region.
The other suspected commanders are Manik, who acts as an operational commander all over the country, Badal, Asjadul Kobiraj, a resident of northern Gaibandha district, and Khaled, who acts as a regional commander.
Kobiraj and Ripon allegedly organise training camps for new recruits and control several recruiters. The investigators also uncovered details about a man named Bijoy, believed to be an accomplice of Khaled.
Munirul Islam, head of the newly formed Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit, said officials have stepped up the hunt for these suspected commanders and their associates.
“We are hopeful that they will be caught one by one,” he said. “Our teams are working to find their hideouts.”
Tuesday’s operation was conducted amid rising fears that Bangladesh could face more attacks following the July 1 attack on the café frequented by foreigners and wealthy Bangladeshis in Dhaka’s upscale Gulshan area.
The government has said the suspects killed in Tuesday’s drive were preparing for a major assault in Dhaka. They were killed when they resisted an attempt by a SWAT team to enter the apartment, police said.
The dead militants were clad in black and two black flags, of the type used by the IS, were found inside the apartment.
In the July 1 attack, 20 people, including 17 foreigners, were killed by five suspected militants who the government said belonged to the banned JMB. The IS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its soldiers conducted the assault, but the government rejected this claim and insisted they were members of JMB.