20hrs of panic
Publication Date: 17 March, 2017
Media: The Independent
Original URL : 20hrs of panic
E-paper URL: 20hrs of panic
Nizam Uddin, a 70-year-old resident of Chowdhury Para of Sitakunda in Chittagong, had given up all hope of getting back alive his granddaughter, Mahmuda Khanam Tanisha, an eight-year-old second-grade student of a local school, who was accidentally trapped in the militant den on Wednesday.
Tanisha, daughter of Sayem Uddin, went to the building to study Arabic under a teacher named Marjina at around 2pm on Wednesday. Around 3pm on Wednesday, when police tried to enter a flat adjacent to her teacher’s flat, militants hurled bombs at the police personnel.
The police then asked the residents of the building not to come out from inside it and they cordoned off the house. Tanisha was trapped on the ground floor of the house, like the total of 21 members of six families who were trapped in the building. At around 9am yesterday, Tanisha was rescued from the building along with her teacher after 20 hours. The police then handed over Tanisha to her grandfather.
He then rushed his granddaughter to a local hospital as she was ailing after inhaling tear gas. Tanisha said to this correspondent that she did not see any militant. However, her teacher and family members spent the whole night in apprehension. Sometimes, with the sound of firing, they were frightened.
Four members of the family of Md Selim Uddin, a union parishad member of Banshbaria of Sitakunda, were trapped in the house while he was in the upazila office.
He spent the whole night in front of the house with personnel of law enforcement agencies as his four-year-old son Inan, six-year-old daughter Humayara and wife were trapped in the building. Not only his family members, but also his three sisters-in-law and brother-in-law trapped in the house. His wife Sabina Yesmin was ill and traumatised due to the loud sounds of the blast and intermittent firing. She was admitted to hospital. She said at hospital, “We thought we would be killed by the
militants. We did not think we could come out from the building alive.” Marjina Akhter, who was rescued from the building, said, “We did not think we would live.” Ariha Khanam, a one-month-old daughter of Ariful Islam, was on the first floor of the house. The child also fell ill and was admitted to hospital. The one-month-old child was rescued from the building first.
A 90-year-old man, named Nirmal Bhowmik, was rescued after being trapped for more than 25 hours at 4:30pm yesterday. He lived in the building with his son and daughter-in-law. He returned home on Wednesday when his son and her wife were not at home.
He was trapped alone in his home. He said, “I was afraid, hearing the sounds of firing. On opening the window, I did not see anything. I again closed it and was waiting to come out from my home.”
On Wednesday, police busted a militants’ den named ‘Sadhan Kutir’ at Amirabad of Lamar Bazar area of Sitakunda, which is half-a-kilometre away from Chhayaneer.
Police detained a couple with their three-month-old child from Amirabad. After obtaining information from them, the police raided the hideout. Sensing the presence of the police, the militants hurled two grenades at the police. Two policemen were injured. The building was then cordoned off from Wednesday 3pm. At around 10pm on Wednesday, a SWAT team of Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP) were deployed at the spot while at 1:30am yesterday, another SWAT team joined them and started Operation Assault-16 at 6am.
The police had waited with patience. They had used loudspeakers several times, asking the suspected militants to surrender without harming any of those trapped inside the other flats. The police had also requested those trapped inside to remain calm and wait inside their respective flats, keeping the entry and exit points shut. However, the suspects hurled “grenades” at the police while the law enforcement personnel, using loudspeakers, urged the militants to surrender. Hundreds of curious onlookers, along with anxious relatives of the people trapped inside, gathered in the area. Some of them expressed surprised over the fact that militants were found inside the building. Shafiul Alam Murad, local ward councillor, expressed his concern over the incident. He said, “We could not imagine that there could be a militant hideout here.”