DHAKA— Two recent raids in which 13 militants – including the mastermind of the Dhaka café attack – were shot dead, are likely to restore the faith of the global community in Bangladeshi police which had been blamed for inaction over a series of deadly attacks culminating in the Holey Artisan siege on July 1 that left 22 people dead, terrorism and conflict experts say.
They lauded the August 26 raid that led to the death of Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury who, the Bangladesh police claims, is the mastermind behind the Dhaka café attack.
A security expert said the breakthrough is significant ahead of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Dhaka visit on August 29.
Talking to Asia Times, security expert Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan highlighted the “positive indicators” from the recent raids.
“The raids show that our law enforcement agencies are currently receiving proper intelligence; they are following up leads and they are able to neutralize threats,” he said.
Khan alluded to the August 26 raid ‘Operation Hit Strong 27’ launched in Paikparah area of Narayanganj in the outskirts of Dhaka.
Locals of the Paikparah area said police began to arrive in large numbers from early morning. Around 9 am, residents were told to bolt the doors and windows and stay safe indoors.
After the locals complied, police started firing around 9.30am and the operation ended around10.30am.
A few hours after the raid, deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Masudur Rahman confirmed to Asia Times that one of the three killed during the raid was Tamim.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, who visited the scene of the raid, said: “When they (the three militants) were asked to surrender, they hurled bombs at police and opened fire…The mastermind (of Dhaka cafe attack) Tamim and two others were gunned down during the raid.”
Police officials said the militants opened fire and lobbed six grenades of which two exploded.
After the operation ended, police found bodies of the two militants near the entrance of a room inside the three-story building while Tamim’s body was found inside the room. Grenades, two AK-22 assault rifles and a pistol were found near their bodies.
Police conducted the raid acting on a tip-off that Tamim had rented a room in the Paikparah building.
Since the July 1 attack at the Holey Artisan café that led to the deaths of 22 people, including at least 17 foreigners, they have been on the lookout for Canadian-Bangladeshi Tamim.
According to police, he also plotted the Sholakia attack on an Eid congregation.
Following the incident, the law enforcing agency announced a reward of BDT 2 million for information leading to his arrest.
Tamim had been missing from Canada since 2013 and Bangladesh police and other agencies had claimed that he was in Bangladesh.
He was also one of the 10 “missing” people whose names were released by the authorities after it was found that the café and Sholakia attackers were all reported missing by their families.
While Bangladesh police maintains that Tamim and his cohorts are part of Neo-JMB, a faction that had split from the original banned militant outfit Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), international media reports, citing several Islamic State (IS) publications, described him as the coordinator of IS’s Bangladesh operations.
In July, police conducted a similar raid on a militant hideout in Dhaka’s Kalyanpur area leading to the deaths of nine militants.
These developments have come as a shot in the arm for Bangladesh, said Brigadier Anam who described them as “pro-active measures.”
Ahead of Kerry’s visit to Bangladesh, “the success of these raids will counter the flawed terrorist narrative that they are fighting for Islam. This convoluted propaganda is actually harming the interest and image of peace-loving Muslim population worldwide,” said Anam.
Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on August 29 to meet with government officials to discuss US-Bangladesh cooperation, development, security and human rights.
Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka-based freelance journalist and editor of Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.
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