Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Police arrest suspected Bangladesh cafe attack planner

AFP, DHAKA

Bangladeshi police yesterday said they have arrested a Muslim extremist accused of being one of the “masterminds” of last year’s deadly siege at a cafe where 22 hostages were killed.

A police spokesman said Jahangir Alam was detained on Friday night by counterterrorism forces in Elenga, a town about 120km north of the capital, Dhaka.

“He is one of the main masterminds of the Holey Artisan Bakery [cafe] attack,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police Additional Deputy Commissioner Yusuf Ali told reporters.

“He was a member of a new faction of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and was directly involved in the murder of at least 22 religious minorities, including Hindu priests and a Christian and foreigners [at the cafe],” Ali said.

Japanese and Italian diners were among the 18 foreigners shot and hacked to death in the attack on July 1 last year. The siege lasted 10 hours until army commandos, using armored vehicles, stormed the compound.

Alam was a close associate of Tamim Chowdhury, the slain Bangladeshi Canadian, who was named as the primary architect of the cafe siege, said Sanwar Hossain, an additional deputy commissioner of the police’s counterterrorism and transnational crime unit.

“[Alam] was notorious. He led around two dozen attacks on religious minorities outside the capital,” Hossain told reporters, adding that Alam, 32, was present with Chowdhury at a Dhaka hideout where they planned and organized the cafe attack.

The arrest came a week after police killed two Muslim extremists, including another plotter of the cafe siege, in a shoot-out in Dhaka. Chowdhury was killed during a raid outside the capital in August last year.

The country’s security forces launched a deadly crackdown against Muslim extremists following the attack, which badly undermined Bangladesh’s reputation as a relatively moderate Muslim nation.

Since the siege, security forces have killed about 50 Muslim extremists, including most of the alleged leaders of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh.

However, the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for the cafe attack, posting images of the carnage as it happened and photographs of the gunmen, who had posed with the group’s black flag.

Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of attacks on foreigners, rights activists and members of religious minorities.

While many of those attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State or al-Qaeda, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government has blamed local militants, denying that international militants have gained a foothold in Bangladesh.

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