Dhaka: Bangladesh today pressed anti-terrorism charges against several suspects and identified the fifth assailant in the country’s worst terror attack as authorities intensified efforts to unravel the plot behind the brazen assault in which 22 people were slaughtered by Islamists. The charges against the suspects were filed at Gulshan Police Station at midnight, Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Haque said.
Islamist gunmen stormed a popular restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave late on Friday and killed 22 people, most of them foreigners from Italy, Japan, India and the US in an attack claimed by the Islamic State terror group.
“We filed the case under the Anti-terrorism Act…five men have been made accused by their names and several others as unidentified accused,” the duty officer of the police station said. Police yesterday said two persons were in their custody who will be quizzed later as they are unwell. Also today investigators said they had identified the fifth of seven assailants who carried out the Friday night massacre at the posh Dhaka restaurant.
“We now know the background of another slain assailant, who until months ago was studying at a government college in (northwestern) Bogra,” a police officer familiar with the investigation said. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of the 20 hostages and two police officers during the 12-hour siege that ended after the army stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery popular with expats in the diplomatic zone here, killing six attackers and capturing one alive.
Hostages killed include 19-year-old Indian girl Tarishi Jain. Nine Italians, 7 Japanese, one American of Bangladeshi origin, and two Bangladeshis were also among the dead. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali briefed foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka highlighting the current situation and steps taken by the government so far after the Friday’s attack.
Police on Saturday night released the photos of the five militants and identified them as ‘Akash’, ‘Bikash’, ‘Don’, ‘Bandhon’ and ‘Ripon’. But, the Islamic State named the five gunmen in photos they released hours after the attack as Abu Umayer, Abu Salma, Abu Rahiq, Abu Muslim and Abu Muharib. Regarding differences between names, the police chief cited the trend among militants to use aliases.
Three other gunmen were all from well-to-do families and studied at Dhaka’s top English medium schools. However, one of the persons shown in five photos released by police was identified as Saiful Islam Chowkider, a chef at Holey Artisan Bakery.
Some of the hostages are being quizzed by the police to get useful information in tracing the origins of the attack. The Italian Foreign Ministry in travel advisories said it could not exclude the possibility of further attacks in
Bangladesh. It asked people to exercise the “utmost prudence” while travelling in Bangladesh and limit their activities to only what was necessary.
The Awami League government has blamed homegrown militants of the at Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for the attack which it says is part of a plot to destabilise the country and has accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami of fomenting trouble.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh has also witnessed a wave of deadly attacks recently on religious minorities like Hindus, Christians and secular bloggers by suspected Islamists.