Bangladesh stand-off comes to deadly end with 'militant' blast

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Bangladeshi troops evacuate civilians during an operation to storm an Islamist extremist hideout in Sylhet (26 March 2017)Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Troops on Monday rescued civilians (above) before launching raids on militant hideouts

Up to eight people including a child were killed when suspected Islamist militants blew themselves up after being surrounded in a hideout in north-eastern Bangladesh, police say.

They described a horrific scene at the end of the two day stand-off at Moulvibazar near Sylhet.

Police told local media the militants detonated a grenade after failing to escape and to avoid being captured.

The dead are believed to include members of a local jihadist group.

On Saturday six people - two police officers and four civilians - were killed in twin bombings in Sylhet when commandos flushed out another group of suspected Islamist militants.

So-called Islamic State (IS) claimed on messaging app Telegram that it was behind one of the blasts.

Gunfire and explosions

In the latest incident on Thursday, police told The Daily Star that the bodies were discovered when a bomb disposal team entered the militants' den after "disposing of grenades and bombs [which were] lying scattered on the floor" of the building.

The paper says that the sound of gunfire and explosions could be constantly heard right up until the time the security forces entered the premises.

It is unclear how a child was apparently caught up in the violence.

The BBC's Waliur Rahman in Dhaka says that another suspected hideout in the same north-eastern area has also been surrounded by police since Wednesday.

Meanwhile, law enforcers are also keeping a close watch on a building in the eastern town of Comilla, where a similar raid to flush out militants is imminently expected.

The escalation in violence comes at a time when many in Bangladesh thought security forces had managed to curb Islamist militancy, following the deadly siege on a cafe in Dhaka last year.

Recent suicide attacks on security camps and checkpoints have surprised many.

IS has claimed to be behind at least two other incidents this month, including one at a checkpoint near Bangladesh's international airport and one involving a man who tried to cross a checkpoint run by an elite police unit.

However, Bangladeshi police maintain that an offshoot of the banned Islamist outfit Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is responsible for many of these attacks, despite claims to the contrary by IS and al-Qaeda.