Since last year’s terror attack on an upscale cafe in Dhaka, the law enforcement agencies of Bangladesh has been able to take down a major part of the local militant network, but the radical ideology that drives these militants still lives on, said Deputy Inspector General Monirul Islam, chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP).
Speaking at a discussion on the aftermath of the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, Dhaka, on Thursday, he said police had identified a number of reasons why radical Islamist ideology has spread to such a great extent in the country.
“Marginalised, low-income people are an easy target of militant recruiters as they have no respectable space in society. But many others join the militant groups because they get a monthly allowance for hijrat [travelling from one’s home country to other countries with militant bases for training] with their families,” the CTTC chief said.
“But it is not just the impoverished people. Young people from rich families are falling into this trap as well as they have lost connection to their roots; they do not know their own country, its culture and traditions,” he explained. “They may also be enamoured by the idea of heroism.”
The discussion, titled “The lesson we learnt from the incident of Holey Artisan,” was organised by the Bangla Tribune on Thursday afternoon.
Monirul further said ideology the drives Middle East based terror group Islamic State (IS) is fuelled by the Shia-Sunni conflict in the region.
Marginalised, poor people are an easy target of militant recruiters as they have no respectable space in society. But many others join the militants for financial gains
“Since around 99.5% Muslims in Bangladesh are Sunni, we are identifying and detaining those who are leading others astray with their twisted mindset.”
He said the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery had been planned months before it was executed.
Investigators found what the role of each attacker was, the places where the plan was formulated, people who were involved, and the motive of the attack. All these findings will be mentioned in the charge sheet of the case, he added.
Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid, a security expert who also attended the discussion, said Bangladesh was no longer considered a security risk by many countries, and foreign nationals who felt unsafe following the terror attack were getting their sense of security back.
He said the terror attack had several adverse impacts on Bangladesh: people started feeling unsafe out in the streets, a number of innocent lives were lost, the restaurant business in Gulshan area took a severe hit, and other countries deemed Bangladesh unsafe.
“There was an obvious motive behind the attack; that is why they [the attackers] sent out the photos of the terrible killings for the world to see,” Rashid said. “They targeted Italians and Japanese citizens. Both these countries are our business and development partners.
“The attack seemed to be an attempt to oust the government, but the country overcame those impacts due to the brave efforts of our law enforcement agencies. They have killed at least 70 capable militant leaders and operatives, which has made foreigners living here feel more secure,” he added.
Rashid further said no country in the world could be completely safe from terrorism. “Bangladesh also has such risks, but right now it is safer than before,” he added.
The attack on Holey Artisan Bakery took place on July 1, 2016. Five gun-toting terrorists stormed the cafe shortly after iftar and killed 20 patrons of the cafe, 17 of whom were foreign nationals.
Two police officials and two employees of the cafe also died as a result of the attack.
Shortly after the attackers killed the victims and laid siege to the cafe, Islamic State took responsibility of the attack. However, Bangladesh government and law enforcement agencies have always maintained that the attack was planned and executed by homegrown militants, and Islamic State had no base in Bangladesh.
The discussion was conducted by eminent TV journalist Munni Saha and attended by Shamsuzzaman Shams, brother of Assistant Commissioner Robiul Karim who died during the attack, Holey Artisan employee Shishir Sarker who survived the attack, Bangla Tribune Head of News Harun Ur Rashid, and crime reporter Nuruzzaman Labu, among others. The event was broadcast live by ATN News.