DHAKA: Investigators are now tracing the origins of the weapons used in the Dhaka attack of July 1.
The Gulshan café attackers were armed with three deadly AK-22 machine guns which has prompted investigators to give a major focus of their probe on how the militants managed to get such weapons and where they got the funds from.
Investigators say they are also trying to track down the networks of the militant group and the masterminds of the July 1 attack in which 20 hostages, 17 of them foreign nationals, were killed.
“We are seriously looking into all these aspects,” said an investigator wishing anonymity.
Middle East-based terror Islamic State took credit for the attack, but the government and the police chief dismissed the claim and said banned outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen was responsible.
In AK-22 rifles, two types of chambers are used. The small chamber contains 20 bullets and the big one 32 bullets. The rifle can be used both for single fire and brushfire, said Rab-7 Commanding Officer Lt Col Miftah Uddin Ahmed.
Last year, Rab members recovered eight AK-22s from two dens of militant outfit Shaheed Hamja Brigade at Banshkhali in the port city.
In the capital’s Sadarghat, police recovered two more allegedly left by a group of JMB men after a mugging attempt on September 23.
Officials in intelligence and law enforcement agencies believe that the AK-22 rifle has become a favourite with militants in recent months because they are light, easy to carry, make less sound and the ammunition is available in local markets.
“Those can be carried inside clothes and in small backpacks,” the Rab CO told The Daily Star yesterday.
Security personnel said the semi-automatic rifle is based on AK-47 and was invented in Romania. It weighs just 3kg.
Law enforcers said Chittagong is a major route of smuggling in AK-22 rifles. Each of them costs about 450,000 taka (RM23,009).
Rab had earlier detained an arms dealer named Mozaher Hossain Mia of Satkania in Chittagong who was the key supplier of arms to Shaheed Hamja Brigade, a militant outfit.
Lt Col Miftah Uddin Ahmed said Mozaher used to get the arms from a Pankhoa man of Rangamati who collected those from the bordering region intersecting India, Myanmar and China.
The smuggler used Mizoram border to bring the arms into the country, he said.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed by Sub-Inspector of Gulshan Police Station Ripon Kumar Das, the three AK-22 machineguns carry seals mentioning they were made in China, USA and USSR (today’s Russia). Seven AK-22 magazines and 79 of its bullets were also seized from the Holey Artisan Restaurant and Bakery.
Law enforcers also seized five 9mm pistols, 50 bullets and around 200 bullet Cartridges.
A machete and three knives were also recovered from the spot.
Police prepared four lists of 86 items including 11 vehicles, two motorcycles and 11 bicycles, electronics items like mobile phones cameras, passports, currencies and ATM cards of different countries, seized from the spot.
The attack on the upscale restaurant is the worst terrorist attack in the country, which came after three years’ of targeted killings of writers, bloggers, freethinkers, university professors, foreigners, gay rights activists and members of minority communities, including Hindu, Christian, Buddhist and Shia.
Terror groups Islamic State and Ansar Al Islam claimed credit for many of these attacks but the government maintains IS has no presence in the country.
In the middle of the 11-hour Gulshan café siege, IS claimed it was responsible and published photos of some of the victims within hours of the attack.
But the government claims banned outfit homegrown JMB was behind the attack.
The stand-off finally ended when army commandos stormed the café around 7.40am on July 2, some 11 hours after the siege began, and killed “six suspected terrorists” and rescued 13 hostages.
One of the six was later identified as an employee of the restaurant, but police say he helped the militants and so he is a suspect.
Another restaurant staff member, who was injured and detained by police as suspect, later died in a hospital.
Of the 20 hostages killed, nine are Italian, seven Japanese, one Indian, two Bangladeshis and one Bangladesh-born US citizen.
Two police officers were killed by the attackers when they tried to enter the restaurant soon after the siege. About 30 police personnel were also injured. - The Daily Star/Asia News Network