Confusion reigns | Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:38 AM, February 26, 2019

Confusion reigns

Witnesses and officials have been giving confusing accounts of what happened during Polash Ahmed's alleged attempt to hijack a Biman aircraft.

Several passengers of the Boeing 737 on Sunday said there were gunshots in flight when the suspect made the attempt. One official said the suspect was killed in a shootout in the plane while several others said his firearm was a toy.

At a TV talk-show the same day, State Minister for Aviation Mahbub Ali said he came to know that the suspect was carrying a “toy gun”.

But yesterday, he told parliament that an armed passenger tried to hijack a Biman Bangladesh Airlines aircraft bound for Dubai.

Wielding the firearm, the suspect kept shouting to intimidate other passengers and threatened to blow the aircraft, which was about to land in Chattogram around 5:42pm, the minister said in his statement in the House.

He also said the captain of the aircraft through his professionalism and bravery kept the suspect engaged by talking to him all the time.

The passengers and the crew were safely evacuated from the plane, Mahbub added.

A commando team of the Bangladesh Army and a smart contingent of Rab then entered into the aircraft and neutralised the attacker, he said.

The hijacker was shot and he died later, he said.

Minutes after the evacuation, Tang, a Malaysian business-class passenger, said trying to break into the cockpit the suspect “fired three shots at the cockpit door but could not get in”.

Talking to this newspaper, a cabin crew of the aircraft wishing anonymity yesterday said he didn't hear any gunshot inside the aircraft.

Several passengers claimed that one crew member was shot and another was injured during the evacuation. Officials, however, said nobody was injured.

Contradicting these, Chattogram Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mahbubor Rahman told The Daily Star that the suspect had a “fake pistol”. Pressed further, he said, “You can quote me on this. It's a fake pistol.”

Contacted again yesterday, he said he would be able to tell whether the firearm was a fake one once it is handed over to police. 

There are also diverging accounts about what was found on the suspect's body.

General Officer Commanding Maj Gen SM Matiur Rahman of 24th Infantry Division said, “The commandos first asked him to surrender but he was aggressive. As he refused to give himself up…the commandos took action and he got injured in the ensuing shootout.”

Hours after the incident, he told reporters, “Our pilot initially took him [the suspect] to be a foreigner, but he was basically a Bangladeshi… He had a pistol. We had not found anything else inside the plane.”

Minutes before Matiur's claim, Air Vice-Marshal M Naim Hassan, chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, said, “I have so far come to know that he carried a firearm and a bomb was tied to his body.” 

A day later, Mufti Mahmud Khan, Rab's legal and media wing director, yesterday told reporters that “the bomb-like object found on his body had no explosive substance. It's fake. We are sure that he made a fake vest-like object with wires and circuit [boards].”

However, Mohibul Haque, secretary of the aviation ministry, said, “Eight to ten passengers, including the suspected hijacker, boarded the aircraft from the domestic terminal. In the CCTV footage, it appears that there was a bag on his shoulder, which was checked properly by Ansar members through the scanning machine. The scanner didn't show anything [like a pistol]…”

Finally, CAAB Chairman Naim yesterday told reporters, “Gunshots were heard in midair and the crew reported that they saw the smoking pistol. But that doesn't prove that it was a real pistol. We are yet to find bullet marks or shells inside the airplane.

“There are some toy guns which look like real ones, can make sounds and even create smoke… So, before getting the investigation report, we can't make any sweeping comment about the incident.”

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