Bangladeshi police have identified Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, suspected of being the head of the local chapter of Islamic State, as the alleged mastermind of an attack on a café that killed 22 people, according to a media report on Friday.
Chowdhury, who is of Bangladeshi origin and uses the nom de guerre Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, is believed to have left Canada in 2013. He has been identified by several terrorism experts as the head of IS in Bangladesh.
Police officially identified Chowdhury as the alleged mastermind of the July 1 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in the elite Gulshan area of Dhaka, the Dhaka Tribune reported. Indian national Tarishi Jain was among the 20 hostages butchered in the cafe by the attackers.
In an official report, inspector (operation) Shajalal Alam also said Chowdhury used to visit a building in Kalyanpur area of Dhaka where police gunned down nine militants during a raid on Tuesday.
Chowdhury met the militants living in the multi-storey building in Kalyanpur to “inspire them and provide financial support for their terrorist activities”, according to the police report filed on Thursday.
Though Dhaka Metropolitan Police found IS flags at the Kalyanpur building and the terror group claimed the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery through its Amaq news agency, Bangladeshi authorities have continued to insist that IS has no presence in the country.
Authorities have described the five militants killed at Holey Artisan Bakery and the building in Kalyanpur as members of the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
The Dhaka Tribune quoted sources close to the ongoing investigation as saying that Chowdhury has been “working as a link between foreign and domestic militant groups”. Since leaving Canada in 2013, he has been hiding in Bangladesh, the sources said.
Police counter-terrorism chief Monirul Islam described Chowdhury as the leader of a new faction of the JMB. Police believe he is still in Bangladesh and efforts are on to detain him, he said.
According to investigators, JMB now has two factions – one led by the group’s jailed spiritual leader Mawlana Saidur Rahman and another headed by Chowdhury.
The IS recently released a video featuring three Bangladeshi jihadis, including the son of a retired senior official, that warned of more attacks in the country. In an interview with the most recent issue of the IS magazine Dabiq, Chowdhury said he saw Bangladesh as a staging ground for a two-pronged assault on India by militants based in Bangladesh and Pakistan.