Families and friends, remember victims, denounce militancy
Marking the third anniversary of the Gulshan terror attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, 2016, friends and families of the victims returned to the old premises of the café and held a memorial yesterday in their honour.
They converged in solemn silence at the former premises of the upscale Gulshan café, where three years ago, the most violent militant attack was carried out in Bangladesh.
Families and relatives of those killed during the attack have been visiting the site on July 1 for the last three years to pay tribute, but have refrained from talking to anyone.
Just as in the last couple of years, the site on road 79 in Gulshan 2 was opened to allow relatives and general visitors to pay their respects to the victims from 10am to 2pm yesterday. This was the third time since the incident that the site was opened to the general public.
Families and friends of the victims, diplomats from the embassies of Japan and Italy, and members of law enforcement agencies, stoically paid their respects in expressing grief for the deceased yesterday.
On the evening of July 1, 2016, five militants armed with guns and knives stormed the cafe and took around 40 people hostage, including restaurant staff and guests, both locals and foreigners.
The militants killed 22 people — nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, one Bangladeshi-born American, and two Bangladeshis — in the overnight terror attack. Two police officers, Salauddin Ahmed and Robiul Karim, were killed when they tried to rescue the hostages.
The carnage ended the next morning when army commandoes carried out a swift raid, killing the five gunmen.
Agnese Barolo Rizvi, an Italian citizen and wife of Gowher Rizvi, Adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on International Affairs, came to remember her friends.
Remembering the tragedy, she said: “At about four o’clock (during attack), I received a call from one of my friends who survived. That’s the only person who survived. He still works in Bangladesh.
“My friends who died the way they died, is just terrible.”
She said, “Italians still come, work here. One small group will not deter people from coming (to Bangladesh).”
Ricardo, from Italy, working in Bangladesh since 1982, came to mourn.
He said, “After the incident, we want to work deeply for peace in the country.
Masuda Begum, mother of Jakir Hossain Shaon, 22, a staff of Holey Artisan Bakery, also came to the premises with his son’s photo.
Shaon was detained in a bloodied state after the terror attack and was admitted to hospital where he passed away.
Masuda said, “My son came to work here. He was killed, snatched away from me. I want justice.”
All out effort to prevent militancy
Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) Chief Monirul Islam, addressing the press at the premises said: “Some of the New JMB members died in the raid and we have arrested the rest of them. They are on trial now and will soon be punished. Only then will the families of the victims have some peace. We are putting all our efforts into preventing anything like this ever happening again.”
Asked about Bangladeshi militants in Syria, the CTTC chief said: “We have identified all of them and most of them have died in the war.”
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Director General Benazir Ahmed said: “Nowadays, internet and social media are driving people towards militancy and forcing them onto illegal paths.
“We always have to be alert to defeat militancy. It is not just our problem but a global problem, where 129 militant attacks happened in Europe in 2018,”the DG said.
Where does the case stand now?
A case was filed with Gulshan police under the Anti-Terrorism Act following the terror attack. On July 23, 2018, CTTC filed a charge sheet accusing eight militants.
According to the charge sheet, 21 members of the New JMB, a splinter faction of banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, were involved in the planning and execution of the Holey Artisan attack.
Police also recommended the court drop the names of 13 suspects from the trial process.
Five of these suspects were the attackers — Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasser, Khairul Islam and Shafiqul Islam — who were killed in the commando operation carried out on the morning of July 2, 2016.
Eight other suspects were also killed in subsequent anti-militant drives in different parts of the country.
Of the remaining New JMB operatives, six are currently behind bars and have given confessional statements in court.
Court sources said a total of 60 out of 211 prosecution witnesses have so far testified in the seven months since the trial started and the prosecution is hopeful about wrapping up the case proceedings very soon.