Bangladeshi police killed nine suspected Islamist extremists in a gun-battle Tuesday after storming a hideout where they said a new mass attack was being planned.
Police said they belonged to a Bangladeshi group blamed for an attack on a Dhaka cafe earlier this month in which 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, were killed and had been planning another large-scale assault.
“Nine Islamist militants were killed after two hour-long gunfight” deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Masud Ahmed told media, adding another extremist was shot and arrested during the raid in the capital’s Kalyanpur neighbourhood.
National police chief A.K.M Shahidul Hoque told reporters they suspected all 10 were members of the homegrown extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), which was blamed for the Dhaka cafe attack.
Five gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in the upscale Gulshan neighbourhood on July 1 and killed two policemen and 20 hostages, including nine Italians and seven Japanese nationals before commandos ended the siege.
Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack and posted gruesome images of the carnage before the military stormed the cafe.
Bangladeshi authorities have rejected the claim, saying international jihadist networks have no presence in the world’s third-largest Muslim-majority nation.
But a police official said the wounded survivor who was rushed to Dhaka Medical College Hospital after Tuesday’s raid claimed that all of those inside the hideout were IS followers.
“His name is Hasan. He said they are IS members,” the police official told media on condition of anonymity, adding the 25-year-old was a cook and hailed from the northern district of Bogra, home to two of the five cafe attackers.
But Hoque stressed that the nine killed in Tuesday’s operation had no connection with Islamic State jihadists even though they were wearing the group’s signature black robes and Islamic turbans.
“We think they are all JMB members … We have not found any link with IS. They are all local Bangladeshi militants,” he said.