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Bangladesh police hunt for JMB commander involved in Dhaka café attack

world Updated: Aug 16, 2016 18:38 IST
HT Correspondent

File photo of policemen standing guard along a road leading to the Holey Artisan Bakery after gunmen attacked the cafe in Dhaka on July 1. (Reuters)

Investigators probing the July 1 terror attack on a café in Bangladesh’s capital are focusing on an offshoot of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and a student for his alleged commanding role in the assault.

At least five attackers armed with guns, grenades and sharp weapons killed 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, at the Holey Artisan Bakery in the Gulshan diplomatic area. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has said the group has no presence in the country.

The government said the JMB’s new front, “New JMB” which is led by Tamim Chowdhury, is responsible for such attacks. Police said they had identified three masterminds - Chowdhury, Nurul Islam Marzan and Ziaul Haq, a sacked army major.

Hasnat Karim, a Bangladeshi-origin British citizen who was inside the café during the attack, has also been arrested. The former teacher of the elite North South University is in police remand.

While the initial focus was on Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-origin Canadian, investigators are now zooming in on Marzan, a student of Arabic at Chittagong University who hails from northern Pabna district.

Marzan allegedly led the attack as “an operation commander” from outside and coordinated with Chowdhury, who had been praised in IS’s propaganda materials.

Monirul Islam, a top official of a counter-terrorism and transnational crimes agency, said on Tuesday authorities were focusing on Marzan and some others as part of their probe into the attack.

Islam said authorities had established that, apart from the three alleged masterminds, another seven to eight people were involved in the attack. “But we have not been able to identify them yet,” he said.

Detectives have also detained Marzan’s father Nazimuddin Nizam from Afuria village in Pabna for questioning.

Before his detention, Nizam told reporters late on Monday night that his son had been missing for eight months and had not contacted the family since he left with his wife.

“He went to Chittagong eight months ago with his wife. But since then we have no idea about him. He did not come home during the last Eid festival,” he said.

Some reports said Marzan, aged about 25, was involved in student politics as a member of the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Police published his photo on Friday and described him as a “top level militant organiser”. Villagers from his Pabna home quickly confirmed Marzan’s identity. His father, a yarn trader, said Marzan was second among 10 brothers and sisters.

Neighbours said Marzan was a quiet boy with no criminal record in the village. He completed high school with a good score from a local madrassa before he got admitted to university.

Police said the IS got the photographs of bloodied bodies of the hostages through Marzan, who sent the images to Chowdhury after the attackers used special apps for communication. The IS’s Amaq news agency released these photographs while the siege of the café was underway.

Four female JMB suspects arrested

Bangladesh’s elite Rapid Action Battalion has arrested four young women for alleged involvement with the JMB. They were produced before journalists during a news briefing on Tuesday.

Lutful Kabir, a commanding officer of RAB, told the briefing the women were arrested in separate raids in Dhaka and neighbouring Gazipur early on Tuesday.

He said one of the women, Aklima Rahman, was the adviser of the group. Rahman, a student of Manarat International University, was being watched by intelligence operatives and acted as a top recruiter for the JMB, Kabir said.

Officials seized laptops, books on jihad and other materials from the women. One of the suspects smashed her mobile phone’s memory card during the raid by the RAB.

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