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10 die as terrorist standoff ends in Bangladesh

Foreign influence is one reason why militancy is on the rise, says Bishop Bejoy D'Cruze

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

Published: March 28, 2017 10:15 AM GMT

Updated: March 28, 2017 10:16 AM GMT

10 die as terrorist standoff ends in Bangladesh

A Bangladeshi soldier rescues a child from a building in Sylhet during a four-day operation to flush out militants from their hideout on March 25. (Photo by Inter Services Public Relations Directorate)

Bangladesh breathed a collective sigh of relief as security forces brought a four-day terrorist standoff to an end.

The Bangladesh army said on March 27 that it had killed four terrorists who seized a five-story building in Sylhet taking residents hostage and packing the place with explosives.

Bangladesh police first laid siege to the building in the northeastern city on March 24 and called on the army a day later to flush out the militants. It turned out to be the longest anti-militancy operation in the country and one of the deadliest after 10 people died and about 25 were injured.

Those killed included four militants and two policemen in a series of roadside explosions near the building where hundreds of onlookers had gathered to witness the siege on March 25.

Some 25 people were wounded in the blasts and while troops rescued 78 unhurt residents of the building.

"We have found four bodies of dead militants: three men and a woman and two were wearing suicide [bomb] vests. It took a long time to end the operation due to the presence of a large cache of explosives in the building," Bangladesh army spokesman Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan told reporters March 27.


Bangladesh army soldiers during their operation against militants in Sylhet city on March 26. The so-called Islamic State have saidthe militants were acting under its orders. (Photo by Inter Services Public Relations Directorate)


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"The way the militants defended themselves shows they were highly trained. We are yet to ascertain their identity and our operation will continue as the building is still risky due to the presence of explosives," he said.

According to international media reports the so-called Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack plus another one where a suicide bomber blew himself up in Dhaka near a police post. Apart from the death of the bomber there were no fatalities or injuries in the Dhaka attack.

Bishop Bejoy D'Cruze of Sylhet said the reemergence of militancy strikes terror among all people, especially minority communities.

"People are afraid as militancy goes into a slumber sometimes but reemerges. I think militancy is surviving through foreign influence and also due to growing levels of religious intolerance and extremism in the country," Bishop D'Cruze told ucanews.com.

"So far the government has taken immediate measures to tackle militancy but long-term effective methods are needed to motivate people against militancy. There are tens of thousands of mosques and the government can use the mosques as a strong anti-militancy platform," he said.

Since 2013, Islamic militants have killed 48 people including atheist bloggers and publishers, liberal academics, LGBT activists and minority Shias, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

Al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks but the government has repeatedly denied the presence of transnational terror outfits in the country. It has blamed homegrown militant groups and launched anti-militancy drives, killing 56 militants and arresting hundreds so far.

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