Five years ago, on March 31, 2017, the former chief of the intelligence wing of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Lt. Col. Abul Kalam Azad died of a head injury in a bombing in northeastern Sylhet district during a raid against a suspected militant den. Six other people were killed and dozens were injured in the blast when the security forces were trying to flush out the militants on March 25, 2017.
Who was Abul Kalam Azad?
Abul Kalam Azad (30 October 1971 – 31 March 2017) was a lieutenant colonel of the Bangladesh Army. He was commissioned in the East Bengal Regiment after passing the 34th BMA long course on June 7, 1996. During his time in the army, he served in different posts including IO, Adjutant and Quartermaster with the 6th East Bengal Regiment. He also worked in different important posts at the army headquarters, administrative office, 1st Para
Commando Battalion and 19th East Bengal Regiment.
Later, he had been deputed to the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as commanding officer in Rab-12 from October 26, 2011. He served as a deputy director in the intelligence wing (TFI Cell) of Rab Headquarters from December 31, 2011, to December 7, 2013. He was promoted to the post of director in the intelligence wing in the same year. On 27 January 2016, he was awarded the Bangladesh Police Medal. On 25 March 2017, he was critically
injured in a bomb attack while taking part in Operation Twilight. He was flown to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for better treatment the next day. Later he was flown back to Dhaka and on 31 March 2017, he died at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Dhaka.
What happened that day?
Following the Holey Artisan attack in July 2016, Bangladesh launched a massive crackdown against the militants. Operation Twilight was one of them that was staged from March 24-28, 2017. Sylhet-based 17 Infantry Divisions Major General Anwarul Momen was leading the operation in collaboration with the police SWAT, counter-terrorism units and RAB.
On the morning of March 25, 2017, at least three blasts were heard from inside the five-story Atia Mahal in Sylhet since the commandos raided. In the blasts, about 50 targeted security officials, journalists and other onlookers were injured— Lt. Col. Azad was one of them.
Between July 2016-April 2017, at least seven major operations against the militants were conducted that killed 37 militants. In the operations in Sylhet and Moulvibazar codenamed Operation Twilight, Hit Back and Maximas, at least 15 militants were killed. One of the slain militants who was directly involved in the blasts near the militant hideouts in Shibbari area of Sylhet city where joint forces conducted Operation Twilight were killed in the Operation
Maximus. In the operations against the militants, a number of law enforcement agencies sacrificed their lives. Their sacrifice led to the success of counter-terrorism in Bangladesh.
The country is now on the cusp of a major economic and social transformation that brings broader security challenges both from inside and outside of the country. The rise of the terrorism issue would be a major blow to the constant economic development of the country as well as would demise of the national image in the world. With the relentless effort of the law enforcement agencies, Bangladesh is now the most successful country in countering terrorism in South Asia.
On this day of the 5th death anniversary of the former RAB Intel’ Chief Lt. Col. Abul Kalam Azad, we are remembering all the bravest souls that the country lost in its fighting against terrorism. We are grateful to the unsung heroes like Lt. Col. Abul Kalam Azad who sacrificed their lives in upholding the “zero-tolerance” of terrorism and maintaining public safety.
(Nazifa Nawar is a researcher and columnist)