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Bangladeshi Assault Kills 2 Militants but Fails to End Standoff


Police officers watched as paramilitary soldiers tried to flush out militants holed up in a building in Sylhet, Bangladesh, on Sunday. Credit A. H. Arif/Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladeshi troops using armored vehicles and firing bullets and tear gas assaulted an apartment house on Sunday in the northeastern city of Sylhet, killing two of the militants besieged in the building, the authorities said.

But the troops did not succeed in ending a violent three-day standoff that has left six other people dead, including two police officers, and has injured at least 43.

Zedan Al Musa, a deputy commissioner of the Sylhet Metropolitan Police, said in a telephone interview that the injured included two officers of the army’s antiterrorism Rapid Action Battalion, including its director of intelligence, Lt. Col. Abul Kalam Azad.

A spokesman for the battalion, Cmdr. Mufti Mahmud Khan, said on Sunday that Colonel Azad was in critical condition and had been flown to Singapore for treatment.

The six deaths and most of the injuries, including those to the colonel, occurred Saturday night, Commissioner Musa said, when two explosions were set off by motorcycle-riding militants at a checkpoint about 400 yards from the apartment building, where a crowd had gathered.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility on social media “for a bombing on Bangladeshi forces in Sylhet,” according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist communications.


An injured bomb victim in Sylhet on Saturday. Two explosions were set off by motorcycle-riding militants at a checkpoint where a crowd had gathered about 400 yards from the apartment building where militants were holed up. Credit Monirul Alam/European Pressphoto Agency

Bangladesh’s elite police forces have been trying to crack down on militant groups since a deadly attack on a restaurant last year, arresting and sometimes killing suspected militants. The small-scale attacks that had become commonplace in the country in recent years have largely stopped.

Reports of attacks on religious minorities have increased in recent weeks, though, including the killings of a Sufi spiritual leader and his daughter and an attack on a Bangladeshi Christian. So far, neither crime has been officially linked to extremists.

The Sylhet siege follows a week of botched suicide bombings in Dhaka. A man detonated explosives on Friday at a police checkpoint near the international airport in Dhaka, killing only himself, the police said. The Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Mr. Musa said the police began the Sylhet operation Thursday night, when they received word that militants were hiding on the ground floor of the five-story building on the edge of the city.

He said officers cordoned off the building that evening, and were joined Friday by a specially trained police unit from Dhaka. More than 70 residents of the building were evacuated that day, he said, and army commandos took over the operation Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Fakhrul Ahsan said in a televised news conference that the militants had small arms, explosives and suicide vests, and had planted improvised explosive devices in the building.

“They are well trained, and have thrown back the grenades we lobbed at them,” he said.

Army commandos led the assault on Sunday, General Ahsan said. The two militants killed were wearing suicide vests, and one of them managed to set his off, the general said, adding that one or two more militants were believed to still be in the building.

“The operation will take more time,” he said. “There are risks involved, and we are not in any hurry.”

Source: NYT > World

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