The authorities could not submit the charge sheet in the Gulshan Holey Artisan Bakery incident of hostage taking in Dhaka in almost two years after the gruesome extremist attack took place on July 1, 2016.
The several deadlines, including the last one for March, for submission of the charge sheet have expired, without it being submitted.
Chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Monirul Islam had told the media that the charge sheet would be submitted by March.
The CTTC unit officials have said they have completed their investigation and are now doing corrections of some ‘minor errors’ in draft charge sheet.
The investigators have branded 30-year-old Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury as the mastermind of the attack which the investigators believe was finally planned three months before the attack.
The investigators, however, claimed they could not establish any connection between the extremist group and foreign fighters.
‘We could not establish any foreign link in the investigation,’ said the CTTC’s deputy commissioner Mohibul Islam Khan, adding that they were almost at the close of their investigation into the extremists’ attack.
Mohibul, who is now supervising the investigation, told New Age, ‘The investigation is completed and charge sheet is ready. We are doing the last time corrections’.
An officer, who was recently posted to the police’s Anti-Terrorism Unit, said past week that they were examining whether there was any flaw in the investigation and preparing necessary witnesses.
Investigators have found that half of the suspected extremists were former operatives of banned extremist group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, while the rest including retired major Jahidul Islam pledged allegiance to Tamim Chowdhury.
‘Tamim started working on his arrival in Bangladesh back in October 2013…continued recruitment, training and was preparing for major attacks,’ said an investigator.
The investigators have so far found the involvement of 22 individuals in the attack.
Tamim’s five ‘trusted’ operatives — Nibrash Islam, Mir Samih Mubashir and Rohan Imtiaz, all from English-medium background, and Md Khairul Islam Payel alias Badhan and Md Shafiqul Islam Uzzal alias Bikash, both from Bogra — were killed in an operation on July 2 when army commandos stormed into the bakery to rescue the hostages.
Eight others including Tamim Chowdhury and former JMB operative Sarwar Jahan, Chittagong University student Nurul Islam Marjan, retired major Jahidul Islam, software engineer Basharuzzaman Chocolate, Abu Raihan aka Tarik and banker Tanvir Qaderi were killed in operations in Dhaka and elsewhere.
Whereabouts of two suspected extremists — Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon —were not known.
But, the investigator claim that the two fled to India after the killing of Rajshahi University English professor AKM Rezaul Karim Siddique on April 23, 2016.
As of March 25, the CTTC unit so far captured seven suspects — Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mafuz alias Nasrullah, Rakibul Islam alias Regan, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, Hadisur Rahman alias Sagor, and a hostage, Hasnat Karim, who was there with his family and was caught during his interrogation.
Hasnat was detained for over a month and then produced before a metropolitan magistrate court along with another hostage, Tahmid Hasib Khan, Bangladeshi-origin Canadian student. Tahmid was released on bail on October 2, 2016 and relieved from suspicion.
‘But, we do not want to say anything final about the role of Hasnat Karim, nor do we want to share whether he will be relieved of the charge,’ said an investigator.
‘He might be named in the charge sheet but no corroborative evidence is there to prove his role in the attack,’ said another investigator.
The number of total suspects will be 21 if Hasnat Karim is not named in the charge sheet finally.
Asked about a new deadline on March 30, Mohibul declined to set any deadline for submitting the charge sheet.
Monirul and other officers specified the role of the attackers, the financers and arms suppliers, while security forces branded the operatives as ‘neo-JMB’ or IS-inspired group or Sarwar-Tamim group of JMB.
The JMB, however, in their online statements in 2016 and 2017 dismissed their involved with the attack and claimed a few misguided members had left their group.
Arms, ammunition and explosives were brought from India, and money came from Middle East, the investigators said based on information collected from the captured extremists.
Of them, Rajib Gandhi, Raqibul Islam and Mizanur Rahman have made judicial statements in the courts, and named so far 21 individuals for their respective roles.
Militant organisation Islamic State claimed the responsibility of a number of attacks including the attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery, and Rajib and others were also named in those cases.
During the Holey Artisan attack, the photos of attacks and news were published on IS’s own website. The following day of the attack, photos of five militants were published claiming them to be members of IS.
According to the draft charge sheet, Tamim was the mastermind and coordinator behind the Holey Artisan attack and Chittagong University drop-out student Nurul Islam Mazan was his deputy.
After completing the killing inside the bakery, the attackers used the hostages’ phones to take photos of the victims and sent them to Marzan, using the restaurant’s Wi-Fi access, on the night of attack.
Marzan was staying with Tamim at a house rented in Shewrapara of Mirpur. Tamim sent the photos to IS’ another mouthpiece Amaq that night. Amaq in a tweet disseminated the information of killing of 22 persons including 17 foreigners and two police officers.
Investigation officials said that the photos were later recovered from the hostages’ phones in a forensic test conducted by the Criminal Investigation Department.
Basharuzzaman aka Chocolate provided the attackers with other additional supports, and received a fund of Tk 18 lakh from a Middle East country through illegal money transfer, ‘hundi’, for the attack.
Bank official Tanvir Kaderi helped the five attackers and other militant leaders rent houses in several areas. In October 2016, the Rapid Action Battalion branded Sarwar Jahan as Shayakh Abu Ibrahim Al Hanif, the chief of new faction of JMB.
Hadisur Rahman Sagar, Sohail Mahfuz, Rashed, Boro Mizan, and Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan were in charge of procuring weapons and explosives for the attack from India.
Sohail Mahfuz was wanted by India anti-terror agencies and had interrogated him in custody in Dhaka upon his arrest in July 2017.
Mohibul said they were readying several dozen witnesses to be named in the charge sheet.
On 1 July 2016, five young men armed with guns and knives stormed upscale cafe Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, taking dozens hostage and killing 22. Of them, 17 were foreigners.
Some 31 policemen were injured in the incident.
The bakery’s chef Saiful Chokider was also killed in commando operation while Shaon later died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in custody.
The investigators said they were yet to identify any connection of chef Saiful Chokider and staff Mohammad Shaon to the attack.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters on June 28, 2017 that the charge sheet would be submitted soon.
After the café attack, at least 80 suspected extremists, all of the JMB faction, or their family members were either killed or committed suicide in law enforcers’ raids at places including Dhaka, Narayanganj, Gazipur, Tangail, Moulvibazar, Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi, Sylhet and Chittagong.
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