Tuesday, 5 July, 2022

Heroes Never Die

Homage to Lt Col Abul Kalam Azad

The ‘Operation Twilight’ is the most prolonged and complex counter-terror (CT) operation in the history of Bangladesh. The five-day episode occurred from 24-28 March in a terror den, namely, the Atia Mahal case, in Shibbari neighborhood in Sylhet city, northeastern Bangladesh. For many experts, ‘Operation Twilight’ is the 'turning point case' for the country's push against terrorism, which deserves special attention to manifest the sheer mark of the country's sincere commitments to its pro-active combat against Islamist militancy.

Operation Twilight was an unprecedented raid-and-rescue operation concerning its scope and design. Despite facing a highly volatile scenario of heavy civilian presence in and around the operational area, the Bangladesh security forces managed to complete the operation with great accomplishment as seventy-eight civilians were successfully rescued from the building without any casualty.

Four militants – three males and one female – belonging to the ‘Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (Neo-JMB)’ faction were neutralised during the operation jointly conducted by the 1st Para Commando Battalion and the 17th Infantry Division of the Bangladesh Army with assistance from the elite paramilitary force – Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the police. However, six (including two police officers) including a high official of RAB lost their lives in a diversionary suicide blast close to the operation site.

This is how we know and learn many successful stories of Bangladesh (like ‘Operation Twilight’) in its fight against  terrorism and militancy, thanks to its 'zero-tolerance' policy against terrorism. But, do we know the 'costs' of success behind those hard-earned glories?

In the decade-long fight against terrorism, Bangladesh has lost many brave souls. Sadly, we often miss highlighting the stories of our brave heroes, those who risk and sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom. The story of Lieutenant Colonel Abul Kalam Azad – the former RAB Intelligence Chief - is one of the bravest among them, who died in duty during the Operation Twilight raid. Certainly, it is a selfless act of supreme valour done without asking anything in return.

Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad was the RAB’s intelligence wing director. On 24th March 2017, he led a battalion of RAB and other security forces to the infamous Atia Mahal, a terror den in Shibbari, Sylhet. The operation lasted for two days at a stretch with a massive risk of civilian casualties. During the operation, powerful bombs went off, killing five people and injuring 40 others. Lt Col Azad was severely injured from splinters. He was quickly flown to Singapore for better treatment, but doctors had nothing in their hands. Later, on 31st March 2017, our hero breathed his last in the CMH. Lt Col Azad is one of the many bravest sons that the country lost in its decade-long fight against terrorism.

Lt Col Azad was born in 1971, months before Bangladesh’s independence. He was born in a respected family in Chapainababganj. He joined Bangladesh Army in 1996 after passing the 34th BMA long course. Later in his career, he joined the RAB in 2011 and served until his last breath. There, he served as a deputy director in the RAB’s Task Force Intelligence (TFI) before becoming the Intel chief for the elite force. He also served as Adjutant and Quartermaster successfully in the Bangladesh Army. Lt Col Azad is also a decorated soldier and served as a commando in the 1st Para-Commando Battalion. He also received Bangladesh Police Medal (BPM) for his dedication and gallantry in 2016.

Lt Col Azad also left a family behind. He was married with two sons and a daughter who lost their father that day in the line of duty. While Bangladesh lost one of its brave hearts, a wife lost his beloved husband and a parent lost their son. Quite often, we fail to grasp the intrinsic values and the void left behind.

The heroes like Lt Col Azad have sacrificed their lives to uphold the values of our society and state. Their sacrifices have brought peace and stability to our state and world. On the occasion of the 5th death anniversary, we pay our tribute to the heroes like Lt Col Azad, who had fallen in the line of duty, but will remain alive in our collective memory.

Today, we set aside to honour and thank our heroes. Nevertheless, we should be mindful that we should bear this honour every day of the year and not just once. Our country owes a debt to its fallen heroes in the service of our nation that we can never fully repay.


Nandia Roy, Dhaka University