Bangladesh blamed “homegrown” Islamist terrorists and Pakistan’s spy agency ISI on Sunday for the country’s worst terror attack in which 20 hostages were hacked to death, ruling out the role of the Islamic State.
“Let me clear it again, there is no ISIS or al Qaeda presence or existence in Bangladesh... the hostage-takers were all home-grown terrorists not members of ISIS or any other international Islamist outfits,” home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said.
“We know them (hostage-takers) along with their ancestors, they all grew up here in Bangladesh... they belong to homegrown outfits like JMB (Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh),” he said.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of the hostages , mostly foreigners, and two police officers during an 11-hour siege that ended on Saturday after the army stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery popular with expats in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone, killing six attackers and capturing one alive.
Hossain Toufique Imam, the political adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said the way in which the hostages were killed with machetes suggests the role of a local terrorist group, the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.
“Pakistan’s ISI and Jamaat connection is well known... they want to derail the current government,” Imam told a TV channel. The arrested terrorist pulled out at the last minute out of fear and he holds the key to crucial details, he said.
Hostages who were killed include a young Indian woman, Tarishi Jain. Nine Italians, seven Japanese, one American of Bangladeshi origin, and two Bangladeshis were also among the people who were killed.
Most of those killed had their throats slit.
Among those rescued were Indians, Sri Lankans and Japanese nationals, media reports said. Around 30 people were injured.
A police source was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune that all the attackers were Bangladeshi nationals aged between 20 and 28.
Police said the attackers were well-educated and most came from rich families.
“All of them were students and communicated at the crime scene in both Bengali and English,” the police source said.
The government has consistently ruled out the presence of the Islamic State in the Muslim-majority nation though experts have been maintaining that series of brutal attacks on minorities and secular activists had the hallmarks of the group.
Police have released the photos of the six gunmen killed during the raid. A seventh was arrested and is being interrogated by Bangladeshi intelligence officers.