Bangladesh probe in restaurant attack focusses on suspected militant, survivor

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Dhaka
  • Updated: Jul 04, 2016 21:43 IST
A policeman keeps watch near the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant in Dhaka after a terror attack. (Reuters)

Bangladeshi investigators are focusing on a suspected militant and a survivor as part of their frantic search for clues in Friday’s attack on an upscale restaurant that left 20 hostages dead in the country’s first major terrorist attack.

Inspector general of police AKM Shahidul Haque said investigators are concentrating on a suspect detained when commandos stormed Holey Artisan Bakery on Saturday morning to end a 12-hour siege.

Six suspected militants were gunned down during the operation but police released photo of bodies of only five attackers. The identities of four militants were confirmed by either friends or families by matching the photos of the bodies.

“We will interrogate two persons, including the detained suspect after he recovers from injuries,” Haque told reporters on Monday. He did not provide their identities.

Read: Why Bangladesh claim of ISI role in Dhaka cafe attack could be true

“A case will be filed today. After filing the case things will be clear further,” he said.

Investigators are also questioning some survivors and the focus has been on a university teacher who got away with his wife and two children.

The man, Abul Hasnat Reza Karim, has been in the custody of the Detective Branch, while his home in Dhaka was raided and his laptop seized.

Questions have arisen about the former North South University teacher’s past since a leading Bengali newspaper had suggested in a 2012 report he was one of three teachers known as organisers and backers of the banned radical group Hizbut Tahrir.

One of the attackers, Nibras Islam, was a former student of Karim’s department at the same university.

According to Karim’s narrative, he was freed as he and his family could recite from the Quran and his wife was wearing a hijab. But photo and videos of the siege filmed by witnesses in nearby buildings and shared on social media showed a man with a shaven head, who resembled Karim, walking fearlessly with his family. The same man was seen on the restaurant’s rooftop with two suspected militants.

Read: Dhaka attack: Bangladesh may be confronting a more fearsome militant foe

Also on Monday, surrounded by tearful family members and amid tight security, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and diplomats from Italy, Japan, India, the US and other countries paid tribute to the dead hostages by placing floral wreaths on the coffins of three Bangladeshi victims.

The coffins were draped in the Bangladeshi flag. That of Emory University student Abinta Kabir, a Bangladeshi-origin US citizen, was partially covered with an American flag.

Seventeen other hostages, including nine Italians, seven Japanese and one Indian, were butchered by the attackers with sharp weapons. Two others who died were police officers who were killed on Friday night when they tried to enter the restaurant during the initial response to the crisis.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but authorities again rejected the claim and said the attackers belonged to the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB).

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