Confusion surrounds the fate of two former hostages from the grisly attack on a restaurant in Bangladesh’s capital, with their families saying they haven’t returned home and authorities announcing they are not in custody.
The two men are considered vital for the investigation into the July 1 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in the Gulshan diplomatic zone that left 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, dead.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State but Bangladeshi authorities have insisted it was carried out by homegrown militants.
The families of Hasnat Karim, a British citizen, and Tahmid Hasib Khan, a student at the University of Toronto, have sought information on their whereabouts and rights group Amnesty International has urged the government to clarify.
Police said they had earlier questioned Karim and Khan but they were no longer in custody.
Amnesty said Karim’s family was taken into custody by police for questioning on July 2, and all, except Karim, were released on July 3.
“Hasnat Karim’s family must immediately be told whether the Bangladeshi authorities are still holding him in custody, and if so allow him contact with the outside world. They have already suffered a traumatic episode, and his enforced disappearance prolongs their ordeal,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia director.
“The Bangladeshi authorities have a poor track record when it comes to human rights in custody, with violations including torture and other ill-treatment often to obtain ‘confessions’ and the denial of medical treatment,” Patel said.
Masudur Rahman, a spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said on Wednesday they were not aware of the whereabouts of Karim and Khan.
“They are not in our custody,” he said without elaborating.
Some reports suggested they were still in the custody of security agencies. Rahman did not comment on these reports.
On the night of July 1, at least five young attackers entered the café with firearms, explosives and sharp weapons and took more than 35 hostages. They killed 17 foreigners and three Bangladeshis.
Later, all the attackers were killed by security forces and Karim and Khan were freed.
Karim, a businessman and former teacher at North South University, had left the café unhurt with his wife and two children. However, investigators had focussed on him as one of the attackers had studied at North South University. Amateur videos filmed by a man living in a building next to the café had purportedly shown Karim talking with the attackers.