Bangladesh police stormed a militant hideout outside Dhaka Saturday, shooting dead three extremists, including the alleged mastermind of a horrific attack on a cafe in the capital last month in which 22 mostly foreign hostages were killed.
The three bodies were retrieved after police staged an hour-long gun battle with extremists in Narayanganj, a city 25 kilometers south of Dhaka, officers said.
“Tamim Chowdhury is dead. He is the Gulshan attack mastermind and the leader of JMB (Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh),” senior police officer Sanwar Hossain told Agence France Presse.
The militants were cornered in an early morning raid on their hideout and were killed after refusing to surrender, Additional Commissioner of Police Monirul Islam told Reuters.
Chowdhury, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi-Canadian citizen who returned from Canada in 2013, had earlier been named by police as the suspected mastermind of the attack on the cafe in Gulshan, an upscale Dhaka neighborhood.
ISIS had claimed responsibility for the cafe attack. While the government has dismissed the claim, security experts say the scale and sophistication of the assault suggested links to trans-national networks.
Analysts say ISIS in April identified Chowdhury as its national commander.
But police and the Bangladesh government say a new faction of JMB led by Chowdhury was behind the attack in which 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, were killed along with two policemen.
Police blame the JMB, a homegrown militant group, for the deaths of more than 80 foreigners and members of religious minorities over the last three years.
“The operation went on for an hour. We can see three dead bodies. They did not surrender. They threw four to five grenades at police and fired from AK 22 rifles,” Bangladesh national police chief A.K.M Shahidul Hoque told reporters Saturday.
“Three extremists were killed. Among them, one of the dead persons looked exactly like the photo of Tamim Chowdhury that we have,” he said.
“Chowdhury’s chapter is closed here,” Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters after visiting the site of the raid Saturday.
He said other extremists were “very few” in number and face imminent arrest.
A series of raids on suspected militant hideouts carried out with the Rapid Action Battalion elite security force have killed at least 24 extremists since the cafe attack.