Updated at 11:30 a.m. ET on 2016-10-06
Bangladeshi police on Monday identified the narrator of a recent Bengali-language Islamic State (IS) propaganda video as the son of a former government leader.
The video, released Sept. 24, features old footage of five men who carried out a terrorist attack in Dhaka in July, and the voice of singer-turned-IS militant Tahmid Rahman Shafi, Monirul Islam, chief of the counter terrorism unit of the police, told journalists at a press conference in Dhaka.
Shafi, currently in Syria, is the son of a former election commissioner and home secretary Shafiur Rahman, who died in 2014, police said.
“Analyzing the video through software, we have seen that the background was inserted later. And the voice heard was of Neo-JMB member Tahmid Rahman Shafi,” Islam told reporters. Neo-JMB is a faction of the home-grown militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh.
The announcement came a day after Canadian resident Tahmid Hasib Khan was released on bail after being found innocent of participating in the attack on an upscale café in the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladeshi capital.
The July 1 massacre at the Holey Artisan Bakery left 29 dead: 20 diners, five attackers, two policemen shot from inside the cafe, a restaurant worker and a wounded man who later died of his injuries. Seventeen of the dead were foreign nationals.
The five attackers were killed when security forces stormed the restaurant and freed 13 hostages on the morning of July 2.
‘Very much present’
Days after the attack, the IS released a video in Bengali and English praising the massacre. The video featured three Bengali men, including Shafi (pictured), according to Bangladesh media reports.
That video was shot in Raqqah, the group’s Syrian stronghold, according to SITE Intelligence, a U.S.-based group that monitors jihadist material online.
The second IS video in Bengali, released Sept. 24, contained old footage of the five slain militants urging people to join the IS-led jihad through donation of their wealth and lives.
At the time, Bangladeshi officials reluctantly acknowledged that parts of the film had been recorded in rural Bangladesh.
“The video was not uploaded from Bangladesh. It was uploaded from abroad. But we are yet to ascertain the country from where the video was uploaded,” Islam, the police counter terrorism chief, said Monday.
Responding to the video shortly after its release, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal repeated his claim that there is no IS presence in Bangladesh.
“The government is correct in the sense that no Syrians or Iraqis are fighting in Bangladesh,” security analyst retired Brig. Gen. Sakhawat Hossain told BenarNews. “But you have to remember that IS is not an organization, it is an ideology. IS ideology is very much present in Bangladesh.”
Canadian student Tahmid Hasib Khan was in good health and staying with his parents in Dhaka Monday after being released on bail, his brother told Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star.
The 22-year-old was in Dhaka visiting his parents for the Muslim holiday Eid ul-Fitri and meeting friends at the café popular with foreigners when attackers struck, his relatives said.
During the siege, Khan was filmed holding a pistol and talking to militants, leading to his incarceration on suspicion of taking part in the attack. But police said forensic analysis had shown the University of Toronto student had been forced to do so, The Toronto Star reported.
A Dhaka court granted bail to Khan on Sunday, but he still has one more legal hurdle to cross, according to his lawyer, Motiur Rahman.
Rahman said police submitted a petition alleging that officers asked Khan to come for interrogation on July 10 and July 21, but he did not.
“Now, the court will hear the police petition on Tahmid’s non-cooperation and decide whether it would allow the police to investigate the non-cooperation charge. If the court rejects the petition, Tahmid will be totally free,” Rahman said.
“Let us see what happens,” he said.
Hasnat Karim, a British citizen who was dining with his wife and daughters at the café at the time of the attack, was still in police custody as of Monday.
Police said that a mobile phone app on Karim’s phone was used to send gory pictures of people hacked to death inside the café by the terrorists. Those pictures were disseminated by IS, authorities alleged.
Police began holding Karim and Khan for questioning shortly after the attack, leading their distraught families to declare them missing.
This story was updated to correct the death toll in the café.