Two survivors in Dhaka attack still 'detained'


People place flowers at a makeshift memorial near the site, to pay tribute to the victims of the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 5, 2016. REUTERS

DHAKA: The two survivors of the Gulshan restaurant attack, who had been “detained” for any possible link to the July 1 attack, are still with the investigators.

They have not been shown arrested or produced before a court. Law enforcers claimed that they were under surveillance.

Of the two, Tahmid Hasib Khan is a student of a university in Toronto. He came home a day before the attack.

The other, Hasnat Karim, is a former teacher of North South University, a leading private university of Bangladesh.

Tahmid went to the restaurant with two female students of a private university. The female students were from the same university one of the attackers studied in.

Tahmid was seen standing near the door of the café with a firearm, Detective Branch (DB) police sources said.

Tahmid’s father, Fazle Rahim Khan Shariar, claimed that his son was innocent. He said he had gone to the DB office on Tuesday to give his son some fresh clothes and a toothbrush.

Tahmid studies in Life Science at a Toronto university and his returning home was a surprise for the family, he said, adding that Tahmid is also a cultural activist.

Hasnat Karim, who holds British citizenship, was seen smoking on the roof of the café in an amateur video. Two attackers were seen behind him but he did not seem to be a hostage of theirs.

He was allowed to leave the restaurant with his family members prior to the commando operation.

“It is a sensational case. So we have been verifying all the information before framing the case. We have been talking to other survivors about their roles,” said an investigator wishing anonymity.

The official also said they came to know around 11:00pm on July 1 that the attackers were using some of the hostages as shields against snipers.

Engineer Rezaul Karim, father of Hasnat Karim, said he believes that his son is innocent. He said his son was still in DB custody.

“I wanted to meet him, but police officials said he was being interrogated,” Rezaul told The Daily Star.

Belal Ahmed, spokesperson for the NSU, said Hasnat had joined the university as a full-time business faculty member in 2008.

In August 2012, he wanted to become a part-time teacher so that he could look after his father’s businesses.

With his request under process, he worked as a part-time teacher since the first semester of 2013.

Later, he quit the university.

Asked whether he was fired for his involvement in militant outfit Hizb-ut Tahrir, the NSU official said Hasnat was not among the four teachers sacked for their involvement with the outfit.

Belal said Nibras Islam, one of the five suspected Gulshan café attackers, was a student of the business faculty in 2011 and he had completed only three semesters.

The five Gulshan café attackers were among around a dozen youths who were missing and suspected to have joined a militant group, said a DB official.

Some of the missing are from well-off families and sons of former civil servants, said the official wishing anonymity. “We suspect they have joined a militant group and are undergoing training in militant attack.”

Three of the suspected Holey Artisan attackers -- Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz and Meer Saameh Mubasheer -- were from well-off families and went to private English-medium schools.

Of the two other suspected attackers, Khairul Islam Payel was a madrasa student and Shafiqul Islam Ujjal was a graduate and a kindergarten teacher. Both were from Bogra.

All of the five were missing for several months.

Their family and friends through social media had urged them to return and asked people for information on their whereabouts.

US-based Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi activities, on July 2 posted photos of the five youths, saying the images were released by global terror body Islamic State (IS).

In the post, they were mentioned as “Dhaka attackers”. All in black Panjabi and scarf, they were posing with guns.

However, Bangladesh authorities claimed that the attackers were home-grown and members of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

The father of one youth still missing wanted to publish an advertisement announcing Tk 5 lakh reward for information on his son’s whereabouts. He finally backtracked fearing militants might kill his son, said a law enforcement official. – The Daily Star/Asia News Network

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