Criminal case filed over Bangladesh hijacking attempt

More details about the attempted weekend hijacking of plane headed from Bangladesh's capital to Dubai emerged Tuesday after civil aviation authorities filed a criminal case over the attack.

Utpal Barua, head of the Patenga police station in Chittagong, said the case was filed late Monday. The plane, operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, was headed to Dubai via Chittagong on Sunday. Officials said the attempted hijacking by a Bangladeshi man occurred shortly after takeoff from Dhaka.

The 24-year-old man, identified by officials as Mohammed Polash Ahmed, was killed by military commandos after the plane made an emergency landing in Chittagong.

There are no other suspects, but the criminal case filing officially names Ahmed as the attacker.

According to the complaint, Ahmed attempted to enter the cockpit 15 minutes after the plane's takeoff. At one point, Ahmed, who was carrying "bombs-like and arms-like" objects, started shouting, demanding to talk to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The complainant, Debabrata Sarker, a technical assistant at Hazrat Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong, also said Ahmed exploded "two cracker-like objects" inside the plane, creating panic among the passengers and crew.

Police will now see whether any other elements were involved in the hijacking attempt, Mohammed Amanullah, a duty officer at the Patenga police station, said by phone.

There was still confusion over whether Ahmed was armed amid disputing accounts of the incident by officials and passengers.

Officials said Sunday that Ahmed was injured in an exchange of gunfire with special forces, and that he had shot at them first and was armed with a pistol. Some passengers also said they heard gunshot sounds inside the plane.

But civil aviation authorities cast doubt on that account Monday. When asked about reports that Ahmed had a toy gun, Civil Aviation Ministry secretary Mohibul Haque said they didn't know whether the pistol was a toy.

The incident also highlights security flaws in Bangladesh.

Ishfaq Ilahi Chowdhury, a retired air commodore for Bangladesh's air force, wrote Tuesday in an article in the Bengali-language Prohtom Alo daily that "it is noticeable there have been serious security lapses."

"The question is, whether the pistol was fake or real, how did a passenger carry it onto the plane?" he wrote.

On Tuesday, Ahmed was buried in his village outside Dhaka. His father said Ahmed was married to an actress but was divorced a few months ago.

Mufti Mahmud Khan, director of the law and media wing of Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion security agency, said Monday that the suspect was listed in its database as Md. Polash Ahmed, and had been arrested in 2012 in a kidnapping case. Khan declined to provide details about the kidnapping case.

Civil Aviation Junior Minister Mahbub Ali told reporters Monday that Ahmed had booked a seat on the flight as a domestic passenger heading from Dhaka to Chittagong, and that airport surveillance video showed him going through security with other passengers.

"There was no signal that he had something" when he boarded Sunday's flight, Ali said.

Khan said when the agency's bomb-disposal unit reached the scene, they found that Ahmed had fake "bomb-like material."

Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim nation of 162 million people, has had periodic terrorist attacks in recent years, including an assault on an upscale cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic enclave in 2016 that resulted in the deaths of 22 people, including 17 foreigners.