Commandos stormed a plane in Bangladesh’s southeast overnight and shot dead a “psychologically deranged” armed man “after a film actress had refused to marry him”.
The hijacker allegedly tried to hijack the Dubai-bound flight — described by officials as a Bangladeshi man in his mid 20s — reportedly told passengers he had a “personal issue with his wife” and told the pilot he wanted to speak to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister before he was shot.
Special forces rushed the plane after it was forced to make an emergency landing 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,” Maj-Gen Rahman told reporters.
“Later on we learnt he had died … We found a pistol from him and nothing else.” The airport was sealed off by army, navy and elite police after landing to collect more passengers from Dhaka on its journey to Dubai.
“Just ten minutes after the plane took off (from Dhaka) he fired twice,” one passenger told reporters in Chittagong.
Air Vice Marshal 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),” Air Vice Marshal Mofid said. “He claimed he had a pistol.”
However, police now say the “gun” used on the flight was actually a toy.
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md Mahbub Ali told a Bangladeshi TV station that the suspect hijacked the plane “after a film actress had refused to marry him”.
The operation took less than 10 minutes, and the plane has been searched and declared worthy to fly again, Maj-Gen Rahman said.
The country’s civil aviation chief, Nayeem Hasan, earlier said the suspect had claimed to have a bomb aboard the flight.
“From the talks and dialogue we have with him, it seems he is psychologically deranged,” Mr Hasan said after the man was arrested.
Another army spokesman, Abdullah Ibne Zaid, said Chittagong’s Shah Amanat International Airport was “very much under control of the Bangladesh Army”.
“The army’s special forces conducted the operation and the armed man has been neutralised,” he said.
Maj-Gen Rahman said an investigation would be conducted into how the man “passed airport security details with a gun”.
“It will take some time,” he said.
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, militants killed 22 people including 18 foreigners at an up-market cafe in Dhaka popular with Westerners.
That attack prompted a swift crackdown by Prime Minister Hasina, with hundreds of suspected militants and their sympathisers arrested or killed in raids across the country.