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Joint operation against KNF launched in Bandarban

Panic grips locals

Published : 05 Apr 2024 10:35 PM

Security forces and law enforcement agencies have launched a joint drive against the armed group, Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), in Bandarban following a string of robberies, abduction and attacks on check-posts in the district.

Director of Legal and Media Wing of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Commander Khandker Al Moin said that the operation would continue until the KNF is eliminated from the district.

He came up with the announcement while speaking at a press briefing held at the auditorium of Bandarban District Council on Friday morning.

He said that the army, police, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and RAB were taking part in the joint operation from Friday. "The operation will include all kinds of tactics followed in anti-terrorist drives in the hill tracts," he added.

Moin further said that there were two possible motives of the criminals behind the bank robberies and looting in the past few days in Bandarban. One of the motives was to loot money and weapons and another was to demonstrate their strength.

"The KNF wants to show its supporters and rival armed groups that they belong to a powerful armed group. They were given a chance to return to normal life.”

For this purpose, a peace establishment committee was working under the leadership of the zilla 

parishad chairman. But the KNF terrorists recklessly carried out various criminal activities, including bank robbery, kidnapping, looting weapons, and firing on police camps," he said.

On the day, the RAB also handed over Nizam Uddin, Sonali Bank's Ruma branch manager who was kidnapped by KNF on Tuesday, to his family. The manager was released by the armed group after their demand for a ransom of Tk 15 lakh was met.

Mizanur Rahman, Nizam's brother, said that RAB handed him over to the family after its press briefing at 11:15 am today (April 5) in Bandarban RAB Camp.

On Tuesday night, armed robbers attacked the Ruma branch of Sonali Bank. Nizam Uddin was kidnapped on the same night. Within 16 hours of the first robbery, Thanchi branches of Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank came under attack. The robbers looted around Tk 17.5 lakh from the banks.

Earlier on Thursday, Nizam Uddin was handed over to his family members around 7:30pm. Later, RAB took him into their custody.

An hour after Nizam was released, armed robbers again tried to rob Thanchi branch of Sonali Bank, but their attempt was foiled by the police and BGB. The robbers were forced to retreat after a gunfight between the two groups that lasted for an hour.

Later at midnight, gunmen attacked a joint army-police check-post at Alikadam in Bandarban.

Panic in Bandarban

Meanwhile, people in Bandarban district are in panic following repeated robberies in banks, abduction of a bank official and attacks on law-enforcement and security personnel in the last two days. 

The attacks are suspected to have been carried out by the armed hill group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF).

With the back-to-back attacks by the armed miscreants, it seems Bandarban is beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. Such daring activities of armed terrorists in the hilly areas have created fear in the public mind. 

The BGB and police were seen keeping a close watch in the Ruma, Thanchi, and Alikadam upazila areas. Police said security has been beefed up, so there is no reason to panic.

On Thursday night, around 8:30 pm, armed terrorists fired at the Thanchi police station and Thanchi Bazar. 

The situation in Thanchi upazila headquarters came to a halt on Friday after the shooting incident on Thursday night. No one left the house unless necessary. Most of the shops in Thanchi Bazaar are closed. Many women and children are leaving the area in fear.

On Friday, while visiting the Thanchi Upazila Sadar Bridge area from where the Bandarban Sadar-bound Chand Gari departs, this correspondent found many people leaving the area through Chander Gari.

Rina Akhtar, a resident of the Thanchi area, said “The incidents of shootings created fear among the people of the area. My two children are afraid of it. So that is why we are moving to one of my relative's houses in Bandarban Sadar with my two children.” 

UP Chairman of Thanchi Upazila Sadar Ang Pru Murong said that after the incident on Thursday night, the area was not normal even for the whole day. The people of the area are in fear, but security has been strengthened in the area.

He said women and children are leaving the area and going to the houses of relatives and acquaintances.

The only significant market in the upazila is Thanchi Bazar. On Friday afternoon it was found that most of the shops were closed.

In this regard, Bandarban Additional Superintendent of Police (Headquarters) Md Shah Alam said, “Security has been strengthened everywhere. There is nothing to panic about.”

Attack on Thanchi police station and checkpost in Alikadam

After Ruma and Thanchi upazilas of the district, armed terrorists attacked a joint police and army checkpoint in the 26 Mile area of Dim Pahar in Alikadam. This incident happened late on Thursday night.

According to local and law enforcement sources, a group of terrorists opened fire at the Thanchi police station around 8:30 pm on Thursday, after which they opened fire around the market. Later, the armed terrorists retreated when the police and BGB members together resisted them.

Describing the severity of the incident, Thanchi Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Mohammad Mamun said that a group of armed terrorists started shooting in Thanchi market around 8:30 pm. Later they opened fire on the police station. Police and BGB retaliated. 

Finally, the situation calmed down around 12:00 am. Law enforcement agencies have beefed up security to control the incidents, he added.

When the situation calmed down after 12:00 am, the terrorists attacked a joint check post of police and army on the 26 Mile road of Dim Pahar area of Alikadam police station of Bandarban at around 1:15 am.

Alikadam Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Khandkar Tabidur Rahman said a vehicle was signalled to stop at the check post at 1:15 am. But the vehicle tried to break through the check post without stopping.

“The terrorists opened fire after being interrupted. Then the police and army personnel also fired back. Finally, the terrorists ran away,” he said.

Home Minister to visit Bandarban

Meanwhile, the Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal will come to Bandarban on Saturday to visit Ruma and Thanchi upazila.

Earlier, in two upazilas of Bandarban, three branches of two banks were attacked and the bank manager was abducted within 16 hours from Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon. Armed groups fired at Thanchi Police Station on Thursday night. 

Later, late on Thursday night, terrorists attacked a joint police and army checkpoint in Alikadam upazila. However, the police did not say anything about who fired. 

However, earlier on Tuesday night, the KNF was said to be involved in the robbery of Sonali Bank in Bandarban’s Ruma Upazila headquarters, the kidnapping of the bank manager and the looting of 14 weapons of police and Ansar.

Meanwhile, Sonali Bank manager Nizam Uddin, who was abducted from Ruma, was released on Thursday evening after about 48 hours.