Bangladesh commandos stormed a passenger jet in the country’s southeast Sunday and shot dead an armed man who allegedly tried to hijack the Dubai-bound flight, an army official said.
The suspect, described by officials as a Bangladeshi man in his mid 20s, was shot as special forces rushed the Boeing 737-800 plane after it landed safely in Chittagong.
The 134 passengers and 14 crew aboard the Bangladesh Biman flight BG147 were all rescued unharmed, officials said.
But the suspected hijacker — identified by the name “Mahadi” and described as being 25 or 26 years old — was injured and died shortly after being arrested, said army spokesman Major General Motiur Rahman.
“Our commando team asked the hijacker to surrender, but he rejected it by being aggressive, and was shot,” Rahman told reporters.
“Later on we learnt he had died… We found a pistol from him and nothing else.”
“Just ten minutes after the plane took off (from Dhaka) he fired twice,” one passenger told reporters in Chittagong.
Air Vice Marshall Mofid, who goes by one name, said he kept the accused man busy talking on the phone while special forces units prepared for the dramatic raid.
“He demanded to speak to our Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina),” Mofid said. “He claimed he had a pistol, but we are not sure yet whether it is an actual gun or a fake.”
An unnamed member of the crew said the man was carrying a bomb-like object.
“(He) said, ‘I’ll hijack this plane… If you don’t open the cockpit, I will blow up the plane,'” the crew member told Bangladeshi newspaper Prothom Alo.
Other crew members said passengers were evacuated through four emergency gates of the plane.
The hijacker also held a flight steward hostage.
The suspect asked to speak to speak to his wife and to the country’s prime minister before dying from injuries in an exchange of gunfire with military commandos, officials said.
The flight, operated by state-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines, took off from Dhaka at 4:35 p.m. for the trip to Dubai via Chittagong.
The pilot made the emergency landing in Chittagong about 40 minutes later, after a crew member reported “suspicious behavior” by the man, said Rezaul Karim, an official with the Bangladeshi military’s inter-service public affairs office.
The suspect appeared to be “mentally imbalanced,” said Air Vice Marshal M. Naim Hassan, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. “I am saying this because of his behavior. He wanted to talk to the prime minister.”
Before the suspect was pronounced dead, Rahman had described him as a “terrorist” and said that he had been arrested and was being questioned.
Bangladeshi soldiers could be seen during the live TV broadcast taking positions inside Shah Amanat International Airport in Chittagong, 252 kilometers (156 miles) southeast of Dhaka.
Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 165 million, has struggled to grapple with homegrown extremism in recent years, including the murder of atheist bloggers and progressive activists by Islamist outfits.
In a deadly attack claimed by the Islamic State group in 2016, terrorists killed 22 people including 18 foreigners at an upmarket cafe in Dhaka popular with Westerners.
That attack prompted a swift crackdown by Prime Minister Hasina, with hundreds of suspected militants and their sympathizers arrested or killed in raids across the country.