The police had received information about an attack to be launched at any restaurant or bar in the capital’s diplomatic enclave ahead of Holey Artisan attack but failed to take any measures due to lack of information on specific target, said counter-terrorism officials.
Three years after the Holey Artisan attack that left 22 people, including 17 foreign nationals, at the upend café at Gulshan,on July 1, 2016, counter-terrorism officials recapped the event on Sunday.
‘As we got some more information 10 days ahead of the attack, we stepped up security in diplomatic enclave on June 25. We got the information following a raid outside Dhaka. A final meeting held outside by the extremists including Tamim and Major Zahid, among others, deciding on the targets and plans,’ Anti-Terrorism Unit additional deputy inspector general Md Moniruzzaman told New Age.
Following the raid outside Dhaka, the lawful interception cell had alerted Dhaka Metropolitan Police who beefed up security in the diplomatic zone, he said. Special Branch additional police superintendent Ashrafur Rahman Fakir, in his ‘special intelligence report’ on June 6, 2016, also alerted the authorities to possible attack on any hotel, bar or important installations ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr, celebrated on July 7, 2016.
‘Due to the preparation, the police could reach the spot within two minutes of the attack on Holey Artisan restaurant and take control of the area,’ read an internal publication of the police headquarters in 2017.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police acting commissioner Monirul Islam, who also leads the counter-terrorism and transnational crime unit, said, ‘We had some pieces of information that an attack was to be carried out on a foreign mission. We had beefed up security — checkpoints had been set up — to that end,’ he said.
Depending on the capabilities of the perpetrators, he said, sometimes it became very difficult to foil an attack.
In the evening of July 1, 2016, five youths with guns and knives stormed Holey Artisan at Gulshan, killed 22, including 17 foreigners and two police officials, and injured 31 law
On July 23, 2018, the CTTC inspector Humayun Kabir submitted the charge sheet of the case naming eight suspects of banned extremist outfit Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh faction.
The Dhaka Anti-Terrorism Tribunal indicted the eight on November 26, 2018. The tribunal so far examined 60 of the 211 prosecution witnesses.
Investigators said that initially detained six accused — Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mafuz Nasrullah, Rakibul Islam Regan, Mizanur Rahman and Hadisur Rahman Sagor — made statements in courts naming 21 people, directly or indirectly involved in the attack.
Two other accused Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon, who were convicted of murder of Rajshahi University English professor AKM Rezaul Karim Siddique on April 23, 2016 and fled to India, were arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion in Chapainawabganj and Gazipur in January 2019.
The counter-terrorism unit had earlier said that they believed Khalid and Ripon had fled to India before the Holey Artisan attack.
The investigators branded 30-year-old Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury as the ‘mastermind’ of the attack.
They found that half of the suspects were former operatives of banned JMB faction while the rest, including retired major Zahidul Islam, pledged allegiance to Tamim.
The charge sheet specified the role of the attackers, the financers and arms suppliers, while security forces branded the operatives as members of JMB faction led by Sarwar Jahan and Tamim Chowdhury.
The JMB faction, however, in online statements on July 4, 2018, dismissed its involvement in the attack and claimed that a few misguided members had left the outfit.
Arms, ammunition and explosives were brought from India, and money came from Middle East, the investigators told in press conferences.
Middle East extremist organisation Islamic State claimed responsibility for a number of attacks including the Holey Artisan attack.
The café’s chef Saiful Chowkidar was also killed during the commando operation while staff Jakir Hossain Shaon later died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital in custody.
Counter-terrorism officials, however, are yet to determine in what circumstance Saiful and Jakir were killed or whether they had any link to the attack.
Monirul declined to term their death as ‘collateral damage’.
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