DHAKA • Bangladeshi police yesterday killed nine suspected extremists believed to be planning another mass attack following a deadly cafe assault this month, the country's police chief said.
Police said they had cordoned off a five-storey apartment building in Dhaka after suspects threw a small bomb at officers. A gunfight ensued, during which cries of "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest") could be heard through the night as hundreds of police and elite security forces sealed off the area.
"From police intelligence sources, we learnt that they were planning to carry out a major incident. We conducted the operation to foil any such incident," said Inspector General of Police (IGP) A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque.
One other suspected extremist was shot and arrested during the raid in the capital's Kalyanpur neighbourhood, according to police. A police official said the wounded terrorist had said all of those inside the hideout were followers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan in which two policemen and 20 hostages were killed, among them nine Italians and seven Japanese nationals.
But IGP Hoque said: "We have not found any link with IS. They are all local Bangladeshi militants." IS is another acronym for ISIS.
Police said they had found university identity cards at the scene and were checking whether they were genuine. Three were from the North South University (NSU), which hit the headlines when seven students were convicted and jailed for the killing of an atheist blogger. Two of the cafe attackers were also former students of NSU.
"We are now checking whether these university ID cards are genuine or they just used the cards to rent the flat," deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Masud Ahmed said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina thanked the police for a "very successful operation" and said their swift action had saved the country from a "terrible situation".
"We don't want Bangladesh to become a sanctuary for terrorist activities," she said, adding her government would eliminate extremism at all costs.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS