KNF’s brazen bank robberies unveil security concerns

KNF, Kuki-Chin National Front, Sonali Bank, Bangladesh

On Wednesday, April 3, members of the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), a hill separatist armed organization, launched an attack on Sonali and Krishi Banks in Thanchi, Bandarban. During the assault, they looted 15 lakh taka from the cash counter of Sonali Bank and 7 lakh taka from Krishi Bank. However, their attempts to open or break into any bank vault were unsuccessful.

On the night of Tuesday, April 2, KNF members launched an attack on Sonali Bank in Ruma. During the assault, they attempted to breach the bank vault but were unsuccessful. Additionally, they kidnapped the bank manager, Nizam Uddin, who has been rescued on April 4. Furthermore, they seized 14 firearms from the police and Ansar members responsible for security.

According to police and eyewitness states, the kidnappers arrived in Pahari Chand’s car and initiated their attack. They first entered the mosque located at the entrance of the Ruma Upazila Complex, where they assaulted worshipers, confiscated money and mobile phones, and held them at gunpoint.

Subsequently, they targeted Nizam Uddin, who was engaged in prayer, and forcibly took him. Upon entering the adjacent bank office, they vandalized the CCTV camera, computer systems, and the interior. Despite utilizing the manager’s key, their attempts to open the vault proved unsuccessful. They then abducted Nizam Uddin and transported him to an undisclosed location.

Several eyewitnesses to the terrorist assault on the bank in Ruma reported that following an 8 pm power outage, the attackers dispersed into smaller groups and positioned themselves around the Upazila Parishad complex. They blocked the passage at Bethelpara, leading to Ruma Upazila headquarters, halting vehicles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. The assailants confiscated mobile phones, forcing individuals to assume a prone position. Similar actions were observed at the junction of Ruma Government High School, where the attackers split into two groups-one heading towards Bethelpara and the other towards Chandapara. Approximately 100 militants, clad in KNF uniforms and armed with sophisticated weaponry, orchestrated the operation.

Inspector General of Police (IG) Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun visited the scene on April 3. While the IG of Police was inspecting the aftermath of the attack, abduction, and robbery at Sonali Bank in Ruma Upazila, KNF members launched simultaneous attacks on Sonali Bank and Krishi Bank in Thanchi Upazila, adjacent to Ruma. Despite their efforts, the militants were unable to breach the vaults. Instead, they resorted to looting money and mobile phones from the cash counters and customers, further escalating the situation into chaos and mayhem.

Faisal Huda, the manager of Sonali Bank Thanchi branch, reported that around noon, a group of 5 to 7 individuals entered the bank, brandishing weapons. Additionally, there were 10 to 12 armed men stationed outside. An estimated amount of 15 lakhs was present at the cashier’s counter, which the assailants seized. As they departed, they fired their weapons. Adjacent to Sonali Bank, the Thanchi branch of Krishi Bank experienced a similar ordeal, with armed individuals looting two and a half lakh taka from the cashier.

Eyewitnesses recounted that during the attack on Sonali Bank in Ruma, more than 100 KNF members were present, while in Thanchi, there were approximately 20 to 25 assailants. All perpetrators were equipped with sophisticated firearms. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal acknowledged KNF’s alleged involvement in bank robberies in both Ruma and Thanchi of Bandarban. However, detailed information regarding the incidents is yet to be fully ascertained. Assuring action, the government pledged to address the situation comprehensively.

Home minister hinted at a joint operation, stating that the Kuki-Chin is a militant group whose activity has recently escalated. The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and police are currently engaged in the operation, with reports indicating ongoing gunfire. Following the bank robberies, police and BGB forces have intensified their operations in the affected areas. Additionally, army personnel are expected to join the operation to bolster security measures.

Security analyst and retired Major Md. Rezaul Karim commented on the bank robbery incident in Bandarban, highlighting significant security lacks. He emphasized the orchestrated nature of the attack, suggesting possible collusion with insiders, including informants within the bank. Rezaul Karim noted the symbolic assertion of power by the assailants and emphasized the challenging nature of the operation, given the area’s sensitivity and dense population. He pointed out the presence of police and Ansar barracks in the vicinity as additional factors contributing to the gravity of the situation.

The manner in which they approached the Ansar camp, disarming them before launching the bank attack, showcased their strategic control. Most astonishing was the nearly hour-long execution of terror activities without any law enforcement intervention. Their seamless operation revealed a significant failure on our part. This incident underscores the crucial role of education in enhancing future security measures.

According to police findings, the terrorists meticulously planned their operation, capitalizing on factors such as frequent power outages in Ruma upazila from 8 pm to 9 pm. This period coincides with Taraweeh prayers, drawing crowds away from the upazila complex, where banks accumulate significant funds for monthly salaries and Eid bonuses. Although unsuccessful in looting Sonali Bank, CID officials from Dhaka confirmed the intact amount of BDT 1 crore 59 lakh 66 thousand in the vault. CID Additional DIG Shahnewaz Khaled verified this information upon reaching the scene yesterday afternoon.

KNF launched an attack on the Sonali Bank Ruma branch last Tuesday night, looting 10 police weapons, four Ansar weapons, and over 400 rounds of assorted ammunition. Subsequently, a joint operation involving the army, police, and other security forces was initiated. However, efforts to recover the looted weapons and ammunition have been unsuccessful thus far.

Officials and employees of all levels working in Ruma Upazila staged a day-long strike on the preceding day in condemnation of the kidnapping of Nizam Uddin and the terrorist assault on the bank. In the afternoon, they organized a protest rally and formed a human chain at the premises of Ruma Upazila Parishad. Simultaneously, the Hill Constituent Assembly conducted a protest march and rally in Bandarban city to denounce the attack. Kazi Mujibur Rahman, the Central Chairman of the organization, chaired the rally.

This evening, Afzal Karim, the Managing Director of Sonali Bank, disclosed that the abducted bank manager, Nizam Uddin, who was taken by KNF terrorists, has been reached out to. Without specifying when or how the contact was established, Afzal Karim assured that the kidnapped manager, Nizam Uddin, is in good health. Efforts are underway to secure his release. Additionally, Afzal Karim mentioned his intention to travel to Chittagong to oversee the situation. Furthermore, directives have been issued to ensure heightened security measures for the bank during the Eid holidays.

Since its establishment in 2017, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), also known as the Bam Party, founded by Natham Bam, has demonstrated its strength through various means, including attacks and kidnappings. The KNF emerged as a relatively new armed organization in the hills, commencing operations around mid-2022. Law enforcement authorities previously informed the media that members of Jamaat Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, a newly formed militant group in the plains, received armed training at hideouts in the hills, including those controlled by the KNF. Consequently, law enforcement conducted raids on these hideouts last year, resulting in the arrest of several members of Jamaat-ul-Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya and KNF. Notably, the KNF made headlines last Tuesday night with the robbery of Sonali Bank in Ruma, Bandarban.

In May of last year, a ‘peace establishment’ committee was established, chaired by Zilla Parishad chairman Kyshaihla Marma, with the aim of reintegrating KNF members into normal civilian life. The committee engaged in several discussions with KNF representatives. However, the scheduled peace talks with KNF, set for April 22, were canceled by the peace settlement committee in light of prevailing circumstances. The most recent discussion between the parties occurred on March 5.

Security analysts speculate that the armed groups’ attack in Bandarban may have international connections, suggesting a risk of arms and fuel supply from across the border. They urge security forces to remain vigilant to prevent the Kuki-Chin National Front-KNF from receiving external support. Additionally, analysts highlight the perceived shortcomings of detectives in this incident, emphasizing the need for improved investigative measures.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here