Police are yet to finish the investigation nearly a year after the Gulshan restaurant attack shook Bangladesh. Investigators insist that they will be able to wrap up their investigation once they capture five absconding suspects.
Five terrorists took part in the July 1 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery and killed 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, and shot dead two police officers. Army commandos stormed the restaurant the next morning and neutralised the terrorists.
Eight suspects, including mastermind Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, have been killed during anti-militant operations, said Monirul Islam, who heads police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Unit and also supervises the case’s investigation.
Police arrested four suspects and claimed that three of them – Rakibul Islam Reagan, Jahangir Alam alias Rajib alias Gandhi, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan – had told the court about their roles in the attack.
A fourth suspect, Abul Hasnat Reza Karim, was held as a hostage with his family on the night of the attack. Investigators have so far failed to provide any evidence linking Hasnat with the attack.
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Several aspects of the investigation into the terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan 2 a year ago remain woefully incomplete, though investigators are hopeful to wrap it up this year. The photo was taken on June 28 Dhaka Tribune
Five others are on the run and police say at least three of them – Sohel Mahfuz alias Hatkata Mahfuz, Rashed alias Rash and Basharuzzaman alias Abul Bashar alias Chocolate – played big roles in the Gulshan attack. The other two are Hadisur Rahman Sagar and Chhoto Mizan.
“Their names came up in confessions and statements of several accused and witnesses,” Monirul said. “They are Tamim’s associates.”
Investigators have received postmortem examination reports of 20 victims on June 19 but are yet to get autopsy reports of the accused killed during various operations.
“The investigation has made a headway,” the CTTC chief said. “We hope to wrap up the investigation within this year if we are able to arrest one or two fugitives and get the pending autopsy reports.”
The militants will try to reunite but they are very few in number. We have their details and are trying to apprehend them
Police claim that 22 people were involved in the Holey Artisan attack. Five attackers – Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasser, Khairul Islam, Shafiqul Islam – directly took part in it.
Later, Tamim and seven other suspects – Abdur Rahim alias Sarwar Jahan, Tanvir Kaderi, Major (retd) Zahidul Islam alias Murad alias Jahangir alias Julhas, Nurul Islam Marjan, Abu Raihan Tarek, Abdullah and Faridul Islam alias Akash – were killed during operations.
Officials with knowledge of the investigation said Sarwar was a top leader of New JMB who supervised the whole attack.
The attackers stayed at Tanvir’s Bashundhara house. Ex-major Zahidul and Tarek trained the attackers. Abdullah and Faridul were also involved.
How the attack was planned and executed
CTTC chief Monirul said the attack in the heart of Dhaka’s diplomatic zone was planned at the end of April 2016.
“They wanted to draw global attention with an attack on Dhaka and for this they decided to use militants who were from Dhaka and knew the city well,” he said.
Initially, three candidates, who had killed people before, were selected for the job. But the recruiters were sceptical about the trio’s ability to carry out a large-scale attack.
“So, they selected two others from rural background who were hardened criminals,” Monirul said.
The recruits were trained separately. “They received 28-day special training at a Gaibandha shoal. Major Zahid, who died in Roopnagar, was the chief trainer,” he added.
After training, they were brought to Dhaka and kept at a house in Bashundhara rented by Tanvir.
At that time, they had not fixed their target but decided that it would be somewhere in Gulshan or Baridhara.
When looking for potential targets, they came across Holey Artisan, a poorly secured place frequented by foreigners.
It was chosen three to four days before the attack.
The attackers went to the upscale restaurant by rickshaw and on foot. They did not carry electronic devices and used mobile phones of the hostages, Monirul said.
They took photos with the victims on mobile phones and sent them to Tamim and Marjan, who were at that time staying in Shewrapara.
“We could not know where the photos were sent since the planners, including Tamim, were killed during anti-terror raids,” the CTTC chief added. “We could have found out more if we could capture them alive.”
‘Gulshan attack cost Tk8-9 lakh’
Monirul noted that it was very difficult to determine the amount of money spent in any militant operation.
But for an attack that shook Bangladesh, the expense was meagre – an estimated Tk8 to 9 lakh, spent for buying sneakers, T-shirts, bags, firearms and explosives, he said.
Last year, a number of people from well-off families like Tanvir joined militants.
Tanvir had a stable job and his wife also worked for a multinational NGO. They sold their apartments and cars before joining militancy and donated the money for militant activities.
“This is why the militants did not need to collect fund from outside sources,” Monirul noted.
“After thorough investigation, we will be able to determine the amount of the fund and its sources,” he added.
Firearms and explosives came from India
Investigators said Sohel and Boro Mizan supplied firearms and explosives used in the Gulshan attack. Boro Mizan is now in police custody.
It has been found out that the AK-22 rifles used in the attack were produced in a factory in India’s Bihar. The small arms were also brought from India.
Boro Mizan and Chhoto Mizan brought these weapons to Bangladesh through Chapainawabganj border under Sohel’s supervision.
Arms and explosives were then brought to Dhaka hidden in mango baskets and were first taken to Tanvir’s Bashundhara residence.
Arrested militant members said grenades used in the attack were made by Sohel at the Shewrapara residence in Mirpur.
CTTC chief Monirul Islam said Boro Mizan had divulged detailed information on supplying firearms and grenades in his confessional statement.
“We will get more information when we arrest Sohel and Sagar,” he added.
‘Militants incapable of large scale attack at the moment’
A series of anti-militancy operations after the Gulshan attack destroyed the militants’ network.
“The remaining militants were trying to get organised again between January and March and were likely planning an attack during Ramadan,” Monirul said.
“We were able to destroy the militants’ capacity,” he said. “At the moment, they have no power, morale and strength and are incapable to organise another Holey Artisan-like attack,” he added.
“The militants will try to reunite but they are very few in number. We have their details and are trying to apprehend them,” the CTTC chief added.