Three extremists, including the suspected mastermind of the July 1 attack on a café that killed 22 people, were gunned down when police stormed a militant hideout on the outskirts of Dhaka on Saturday, officials said.
Tamim Chowdhury, who is believed to have plotted to assault on Holey Artisan Bakery that was claimed by the Islamic State, was among the dead. Chowdhury, a 30-year-old Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi origin, has been identified by analysts as the head of the IS in the country.
Acting on a tip-off that some militants were hiding at Paikpara in Narayanganj district, 20 km east of Dhaka, police cordoned off a three-storey building early on Saturday morning. The men inside were asked to surrender but they opened fire and lobbed grenades, officials said.
At 9.30 am, a SWAT team assaulted the building from the rear and shot dead the militants. Bangladesh national police chief AKM Shahidul Hoque confirmed Chowdhury, the alleged mastermind of the Dhaka café attack, was killed. The two other militants are yet to be identified.
“The operation went on for an hour. They did not surrender. They threw four to five grenades and fired from AK-22 rifles,” Hoque said.
Counter-terrorism official Monirul Islam told reporters that the operation was launched after police received information that Chowdhury was hiding in the area.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said he had been informed that that Chowdhury was among the dead. “The physical appearance shows it was Tamim Chowdhury. But we need to be 100% sure,” he said.
Despite the café assault and several other terrorist attacks being claimed by the IS, the Bangladesh government insists that the terror group has no presence in the country.
Police say Chowdhury, who returned from Canada in 2013, was leading a faction of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh known as the “New JMB”. The JMB is known to have links with the IS. On August 2, police announced a 2 million Taka ($25,000) reward for information leading to Chowdhury’s arrest.
Chowdhury was wanted in several cases, including the July 7 attack on an Eid congregation at Kishoreganj that killed three people and the July 26 gun battle between militants and police at a multi-storey building at Kalyanpur in Dhaka that left nine terrorists dead.
He is believed to have escorted the five terrorists who stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s Gulshan area. He reportedly left them shortly before they launched the assault. All five attackers were killed.
Chowdhury also reportedly visited the building in Kalyanpur where the militants were holed up and plotted another attack with them.
Ziaul Haq, a sacked army major who is said to be the other mastermind of the café attack, is still at large.