Seven Islamists to die for worst terror attack in Bangladesh

An anti-terrorism tribunal in Dhaka has ruled that seven living suspects will die for the killings of 22 people in the worst terror attack Bangladesh suffered in one of the most secured zones in its capital around three and a half years ago.

Court Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 27 Nov 2019, 06:25 AM
Updated : 27 Nov 2019, 12:17 PM

In a packed courtroom on Wednesday, judge Mojibur Rahman of the special tribunal delivered the verdict, which is likely to be appealed, for the blitz on Holey Artisan Bakery in the Gulshan diplomatic zone which sent shockwaves around the world.

The convicts --  Jahangir Hossain alias Rajib Gandhi, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Aslam Hossain alias Rashedul Islam alias Rash, Abdus Sabur Khan alias Soheil Mahfuz, Hadisur Rahman Sagar, Shariful Islam Khaled alias Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon – were in the court to hear their death penalty.

The other accused in the case, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, has been acquitted as the charges against him could not be proved.

The judge started reading out the judgment at about 12pm after police brought the suspects to the Old Dhaka court from the Kashimpur jail amid tight security.

But the convicts did not show any sign of remorse upon hearing the judgment as they yelled: "Allahu Akbar...we did nothing wrong."

Two of the convicts were later seen wearing prayer caps with the Islamic State's insignia before being taken to prison.

Reacting to the decision, the legal team for the accused pointed to ‘inconsistencies’ in the judgment and said they will appeal against it.

“There are many contradictions, inconsistencies and a lack of corroboration [in the verdict]. We will appeal against the decision to a higher court,” defence counsel Delwar Hossain told reporters.

Public Prosecutor Abdullah Abu expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision to hand down the capital punishment to seven of the eight leaders of a revived faction of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh or Neo-JMB implicated in the case.

According to Abdullah, the convicts professed their allegiance to the Islamic State while accepting responsibility for the attack.

"But the investigation did not reveal any presence of IS in the country. Rather, the militants scattered around the country planned and carried out the attack."

On whether the prosecution will challenge the decision to exonerate Mizan, the lawyer said, “We will look into reasons for the acquittal and then decide whether to appeal.”

The suicide attack on Holey Artisan Bakery, a trendy eatery popular with the expats, on July 1, 2016 by a group of young Islamist militants was carried out amid a surge in extremism across the globe.

It forced Bangladesh, built on secular ideals, to divert huge resources and efforts to tackle terrorism.

It also revealed how young men from wealthy families and schooled in famed institutions were leaving homes to join militancy.

UNPRECEDENTED

The attackers targeted the high-street joint because it was a huge hit with foreigners for its food, lakeside view, and green lawn.

It was a Friday, a weekly holiday during Ramadan, just a week before Bangladesh was to celebrate its biggest religious festival.

The five young attackers, armed with pistols, sub-machine guns, sharp weapons, and grenades, stormed into the cafe around 8:45pm and started an overnight siege.  

As the international media started covering the biggest story of the day, many were still held hostage inside the café.

The militants slaughtered and shot dead 20 diners, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, a US citizen and an Indian. Two police officers were killed in grenade blasts as they tried to take the assailants on inside the cafe. Two employees of the eatery also died in the attack.

In an army operation codenamed ‘Thunderbolt’, para-commandos rescued 13 hostages, killing all five attackers and a chef. A kitchen worker succumbed to his injuries later.

The law-enforcement killed a number of top militant suspects, including eight masterminds behind the cafe carnage, in raids on terror hideouts across the country as part of a crackdown on militancy.

THE ATTACK AT A GLANCE

Date: July 1, 2016, 8:45pm.

Site: Holey Artisan Bakery, House No. 5, Road No. 79, Gulshan-2, Dhaka.

Attackers:  Nibras Islam, Rohan Ibne Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasheer, Khairul Islam Payel and Shafiqul Islam Ujjal, all killed in raid.

Those killed in attack:

Twenty diners, two police officers, a chef and a kitchen worker.  

Diners-

Nine Italian citizens - Nadia Beenidetti, Vincenzo D'Allestro, Claudia Maria D'Antona, Simona Monti, Maria Riboli, Adele Puglisi, Claudio Cappelli, Christian Rossi and Marco Tondat.

Seven Japanese victims - Koyo Ogasawara, Makoto Okamura, Yuko Sakai, Rui Shimodaira, Hiroshi Tanaka, Nobuhiro Kurosaki, and Hideki Hashimoto.

Indian national - Tarishi Jain.

Bangladeshi victims - Ishrat Akhond, Abinta Kabir and Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain.

Police officers - Banani Police Station OC Md Salauddin and Assistant Commissioner of Detective Branch Rabiul Karim.

Bakery employees - Chef Saiful Islam Chowkider and kitchen worker Zakir Hossain Shawon

Survivors: Thirteen hostages, including women and children, were rescued in the commando raid.

THE TRIAL AT A GLANCE

Date of case initiation: July 2, 2016 under the Anti-Terrorism Act with Gulshan Police Station.

Plaintiff: Gulshan Police Station Sub-Inspector Ripon Kumar Das.

Investigator: Humayun Kabir, Inspector, police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit.

Interrogation: Rescued hostages Hasnat Rezaul Karim and Tahmid Hasib Khan were remanded, but not accused in the case finally.

Charge sheet: Submission on July 23, 2018. Police identified 21 people linked to the attack. They are the five dead attackers, eight militant leaders killed in raids and the eight living suspects.

Confession: All eight accused, except Shariful and Mamunur, gave confessional statements in court.

Indictment: Dhaka’s Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal framed the charges on Nov 26, 2018.

Testimonial: The testimonial of witnesses started by recording plaintiff SI Ripon’s statement on Dec 3, 2018.

This phase of the trial procedure ended on Oct 27, 2019.

Verdict date: Nov 27, 2019.


THE AIM OF THE ATTACK

Mohammad Golam Sarwar Khan Zakir, a member of the prosecution team, told bdnews24.com on the eve of the verdict that the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery resulted from a “coolheaded plot to endanger Bangladesh’s sovereignty and public security”.

“The terrorists wanted to shame Bangladesh before the world by carrying out the attack in the diplomatic area,” he said.

Humayun Kabir, an inspector of police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit who investigated the attack, submitted the charge sheet on July 23 last year.

Judge Mojibur started the trial on Nov 26 last year by framing the charges.

In the charge sheet, Humayun said the militants wanted to make known their presence in Bangladesh to the world by killing foreigners brutally and turn the country into a militant state by belittling it in the international arena.

The Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies along with the police have taken extra security measures for the verdict.

Officials from foreign missions in Dhaka also came to the court to hear the verdict.

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