Five terrorists murdered 20 people, mostly foreigners, keeping them hostage inside Holey Artisan Bakery—and later shot two police officers dead on July 1, 2016
The serene environment of Holey Artisan Bakery was shattered, and grief and dismay settled in, after the terrorist attack on July 1, 2016.
Two years later, Gulshan’s road no 79 remains subdued as the neighbourhood still finds it difficult to come to terms with the deadliest terrorist attack in the country till date.
Alongside the families and relatives of those who were killed during the attack, the locals of road no 79 continue to avoid the media and restrict their movements inside the area.
Five terrorists murdered 20 people, mostly foreigners, keeping them hostage inside Holey Artisan Bakery—and later shot two police officers dead on July 1, 2016. The Bangladesh Army stormed the restaurant the following morning, killed the terrorists, and rescued the hostages.
The bakery was re-launched at a smaller venue inside Rangs Arcade in Gulshan Avenue—six months after the attack. But even after the old venue was renovated to be turned into a residence, owners Samira Ahmed and Sadat Mehedi do not live there, according to old Holey Artisan Bakery staff.
The harrowing impact of the terror attack can still be observed on the house at road no 79. The exterior walls have been painted white, but the door and the windows have not been re-painted.
The walkway on the eastern side of the lake has been closed ever since the attack.
The owners have given strict instructions to not let any outsider into the house, including media personnel. Two gardeners, cleaners and security guards maintain the property, which was opened as a bakery and cafe in 2014 by Samira, Mehedi and one of their friends.
Families and relatives of those killed during the attack have been visiting the site on July 1 for the last two years to pay their tributes, but have refrained from talking to anyone.
Just like the previous year, the site at road no 79 in Gulshan 2 was opened to allow relatives and general visitors to pay their respects to the victims from 10am to 2pm on Sunday. This was the second time the site was opened to the general public since the incident.
The Japanese Embassy was the first to pay their respects in the morning. The Dhaka Tribune approached them to talk to them, but the foreign dignitaries refused to make any comments.
Victim Zakir Hossain Shaon's mother Maksuda Begum and brother Abdullah were seen mourning the loss of their family member in the deadly incident.
"My son used to work as an assistant to Mehedi, the owner," said Maksuda to the Dhaka Tribune. "In the moments before his death, he never expressed his distress to us. Even held as a hostage, he managed to call us over the phone but did not speak a word about his situation."
Deceased police inspector Salahuddin's elder brother Naziruddin said: "Salah was like a pillar of our family. We lost one of our most beloved family members. But we are proud he died for the country."
Apart from the victims' families, politicians, higher officials of the police, and officials from different embassies and international organizations, also paid their respects to the memories of the victims by placing floral wreaths at the site on Sunday.
Ruling party Awami League's General Secretary Obaidul Quader, Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia, RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed and BNP's Vice-Chairman Maj Gen Ruhul Alam Chowdhury were among those who paid their respects to the victims.
The Dhaka Tribune also tried to talk to staff of the adjacent Lake View Hospital and a nearby confectionary shop, but they declined to comment.
Local rickshaw pullers said even though there used to be a considerable crowd around road no 79 in Gulshan, before the attack, it has lessened noticeably ever since.
RAB Director General Benazir Ahmed said: "We will continue our operations to uproot all sorts of militant activities from the country."
He added that RAB needs the cooperation of the people, and also that of other countries affected by militancy, to combat its menace.
Benazir said curbing militancy is a continuous effort, and there is no space for complacency.
He further said during the last two years, the law enforcers and people in general, have given the message to the rest of the world: Bangladesh is not a safe place for militants, and the country will never accept militancy.