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Bangladesh police unsure if hijacker who was killed held a toy gun or a real one

Bangladesh police unsure if hijacker who was killed held a toy gun or a real one
Bangladeshi security personnel stand guard at the airport in Chittagong on Sunday, following a Dubai-bound plane's emergency landing after a hijacking attempt. (AFP/Getty Images)

A man killed while trying to hijack a commercial flight in Bangladesh was a 24-year-old passenger from a village near the capital who had been previously arrested in a kidnapping case, officials said Monday. Confusion remained over whether the man had been armed.

The plane operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines made an emergency landing in Chittagong on Sunday after the attempted hijacking, which occurred shortly after takeoff from Dhaka. The plane was headed to Dubai via Chittagong.

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

Officials said Sunday that Ahmed was injured in an exchange of gunfire with special forces, that he had shot at them first and was armed with a pistol.

But civil aviation authorities cast doubt on that account Monday.

When asked about reports that Ahmed had a toy gun, ministry secretary Mohibul Haque said they didn't know whether the pistol was a toy.

"We don't know if there was any exchange of gunfire," Haque said.

Bangladesh civil aviation minister Mahbub Ali told reporters that Ahmed had booked a seat on the flight 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."

Officials said Ahmed asked to speak to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheik Hasina before dying on his way to a hospital.

A police chief in Narayanganj outside Dhaka, Mohammed Moniruzzaman, first identified the man as 24-year-old Mohammed Polash Ahmed.

Moniruzzaman said Ahmed's parents confirmed his identity, and that residents of the village where he lived said he had a "bad reputation."

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.

The attack prompted a swift crackdown by Hasina, with hundreds of suspected militants arrested or killed in raids across the country.

The Rapid Action Battalion has been credited with reducing militant attacks, but international human rights groups blame the elite anti-crime force for the disappearances and extrajudicial killings of dozens of people allegedly involved with radical groups.

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