Investigators found the involvement of 21 people with the attack on the Holey Artisan bakery in 2016
Police have submitted the charge sheet against eight militants allegedly involved with the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in the Gulshan area of Dhaka in 2016.
A total of 21 militants belonging to the group that law enforcement calls New Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (New JMB) were found to have been involved in the planning and execution of the deadliest militant attack in the country’s history, according to the charge sheet.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit chief Monirul Islam told reporters on Monday that police have prayed to the court to drop the names of 13 of the suspects from the trial process.
Five of these suspects were killed during the counter operation in the attack, while the other eight died during subsequent anti-militant drives across the country.
Among the remaining New JMB operatives, six are already behind bars and have given confessional statements admitting their involvement.
They are: Jahangir Alam alias Rajib alias Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mahfuz alias Hatkata Mahfuz, Rakibul Islam Reagan, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, and Hadisur Rahman Sagor.
Police have prayed to the court to issue arrest warrants against two militants who are still on the run — Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon.
Of the 21 identified militants, five are said to have directly taken part in the Gulshan attack, while the rest were allegedly active in coordinating plans for the attack, combat training, and supplying money, arms and explosives.
In the Holey Artisan attack, five armed terrorists barged into the upscale Gulshan eatery and killed 20 hostages including 17 foreign nationals on the night of July 1, 2016. They also shot dead two police officers.
The bloody hostage situation ended after commandos stormed the cafe and “neutralized” the attackers the next morning.
“The deaths of the attackers made it very difficult for the police to glean information on the crime, as who were directly involved were killed on the spot,” CTTC chief Monirul said, explaining the long delay in taking this case to court.
Monirul said that the investigation found that the attackers had been preparing for six months.
“The attackers had two goals: the first was to destabilize Bangladesh; and the second one was to attract the attention of international terrorist groups,” Monirul said.
'No foreign link found'
Police have not found any involvement of foreign militant organizations with the Gulshan attack.
“We could not arrest any top leader of New JMB alive,” CTTC unit chief Monirul Islam said Monday.
“The matter of a foreign link could be known if they were captured alive but from those we have captured alive or the devices we have seized and examined forensically, we have found no direct contact with foreign countries.
“The investigator could have gleaned more information if the top leaders were captured alive. Those who were killed in different drives had destroyed papers, evidence and devices before they got killed.”
The 68-page charge sheet contains 25 different types of evidence and will be sent to the Anti Terrorism Court in Dhaka on 26 July on the order of Dhaka's chief metropolitan magistrate, Saifuzzaman Hero.
The investigators have asked the court to exempt Professor Hasnat Karim, who was held hostage by the gunmen along with his family. The former teacher of North South University was originally named in the case, but police have since found no evidence linking him to the attack.
Also exonerated are Holey Artisan’s pizza chef, Saiful Islam Chowkidar, who was killed during the terrorist attack, and employee Zakir Hossain Shaon, who was injured during the attack and taken into police custody, and who died on July 8.
A total of 211 witnesses are supposed to give deposition against the eight accused during the trial.