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Dhaka Tribune

Holey Artisan attack: The night that shook Bangladesh

After more than three years, seven militants of Neo JMB were sentenced to death for their involvement in the murders

Update : 01 Jul 2022, 08:47 AM

Six years into the horrific attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan diplomatic zone where 22 people including 17 foreigners were killed, Bangladesh claims to have dismantled militant networks, making it the safest country in South Asia.

Even though militants have killed hundreds of people in the last three decades, the organized attack by a new wing of the outlawed Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on July 1, 2016 is considered the worst assault in the country’s history. Middle East-based Islamic State or Daesh claimed responsibility for the gruesome attack.

The five attackers, all young in age, were killed in a commando operation and 13 hostages were rescued in the morning.

File photo of wreaths placed in front of the Holey Artisan Bakery marking the fourth anniversary of the terror attack at the Gulshan eatery Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

After more than three years, a special court sentenced seven militants of the group, referred to as New JMB or Neo JMB, to death for their involvement in planning the murders. 

The paper-book in the case is ready for the hearing on the death references in the High Court. “Initiatives will be taken for hearing at the High Court soon now that the paper-book is ready,” Attorney General AM Amin Uddin told reporters on Wednesday.

He said that the government would take proper steps to resolve the case as soon as possible.

“There is no threat of militant attack in the country. Bangladesh ranked 40 in the Global Terrorism Index, while the UK’s position is 21 and the United States is 28,” Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) chief Md Asaduzzaman told BSS on Thursday.

Also an additional commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Asaduzzaman said: “Bangladesh has achieved tremendous success in containing terrorism. We have successfully destroyed militant's network and strength through a series of well-planned drives.”

On July 1 in 2016, the militants entered the O Kitchen and Holey Artisan Bakery premises at about 8:45pm, shut the gates, opened fire from AK-47 rifles and stormed the restaurant wielding machetes and shouting “Allahu Akbar”. 

The pizza chef of the bakery, Saiful Chowkidar, who was talking on his phone near the pizza oven across the garden, was the first casualty of the attack, according to survivors.

In the next 15 minutes, a team of police arrived at the spot. Soon, the sound of gunfire filled the air, with machete flashing in the commotion. For the next 10-12 minutes, the gunfire did not cease. 

Members of the police and the Rapid Action Battalion shortly cordoned off the area. But soon after, two police officials – Banani police Officer-in-Charge Salauddin Ahmed Khan and Detective Branch (North) Assistant Police Commissioner Rabiul Islam – were killed following fatal injury. 

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack within a few hours of the siege, saying that five of their militant had killed 20 civilians and two police officials. 

A joint force with commandoes of Army, Navy, Air Force, police, BGB, RAB and Swat began a massive operation early in the morning. At 7:40am, they launched “Operation Thunderbolt” and barged into the restaurant where heavy firing and explosions were used to eliminate the attackers.

The carnage ended when army commandos stormed the restaurant and shot the five attackers dead in the morning.

Case proceedings

In connection with the deadliest attack, a case was filed with Gulshan police station which was later transferred to the DMP’s Detective Branch.

The detectives identified 21 people behind the attack. Thirteen of them were killed in different operations, carried out by different agencies including the CTTC and the RAB across the country. 

On July 23, 2018, police pressed charges against eight militants. The accused were indicted on November 26 of the same year. 

On November 27, 2019, the Dhaka’s Anti-Terrorism Tribunal sentenced seven accused to death.

The death-row convicts are Jahangir Hossain, Aslam Hossain Rash, Hadisur Rahman, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Md Abdus Sabur Khan, Shariful Islam Khaled and Mamunur Rashid Ripon. Another militant named Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan was cleared from the charges.

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