Updated at 6:46 p.m. ET on 2016-09-26
A Bangladesh businessman who was arrested and sent home by Malaysia for alleged links to international terrorism had met with a suspect involved in the deadly attack on an upmarket cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone in July, according to a report.
The businessman, Paer Ahmed Akash, was deported on Sept. 2 and, on arrival in Bangladesh, was brought to court and thrown in jail in Feni, in the Chittagong Division in the country's southeast, Bangladeshi police told BenarNews on Friday.
“The court sent him to prison,” said a local police officer, Salam Uddin.
Ahmed Akash, who faces long-running charges of selling stolen arms in Bangladesh, allegedly met with Andaleeb Ahmed, who was initially named in media reports as among the five suspects behind the terrorist siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery where 20 hostages were killed on July 1, Malaysian newspaper The Star reported Friday.
Bangladesh police subsequently identified the five attackers as Rohan Ibn Imtiaz, Mir Sameh Mobashwer, Nibras Islam, Khairul Islam Payel, and Shafiqul Islam Ujjal.
Intelligence sources in Bangladesh say that Andaleeb Ahmed was a friend of the attackers who has been interrogated numerous times but is currently assisting in the investigation.
According to The Star, the meeting between Andaleeb Ahmed and the businessman took place at Ahmed Akash’s restaurant in Bukit Bintang, in Kuala Lumpur.
On Thursday, Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar announced that the Bangladesh businessman was among four people arrested between Aug. 2 and Sept. 17 over links to international terrorism. The Bangladeshi man was listed on a Red Notice issued by Interpol for “involvement in firearms trafficking for international terrorist organizations,” Khalid said.
A man identified as Paer Ahmed Akash appears on such a notice issued by Interpol. The notice, published on the international police organization’s website, describes him a 39-year-old Bangladeshi who was born in Feni and wanted by authorities in Bangladesh on charges of carrying illegal arms without permission.
Apart from deporting the Bangladeshi, Malaysia sent home two other foreigners – a Moroccan and a Nepali – and also arrested a Malaysian over alleged links to terror-related activities.
The report in The Star did not provide any details about the meeting between the restaurant owner and Andaleeb Ahmed. The report referred to Andaleeb by name but did not identify the other man.
The five cafe attackers allegedly shot and hacked to death 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, at the bakery in Dhaka's Gulshan neighborhood, in an attack claimed by the terror group Islamic State.
IS later circulated individual photos online of the five men toting an assault rifle and wearing identical red turbans as each stood in front of the group’s black flag.
Before and after the attack, Bangladeshi authorities have maintained that IS has no presence in the country and that Neo-JMB, a faction of home-grown militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), was behind the attack.
Nearly all the attackers went to prestigious schools or universities in Dhaka and Malaysia, officials had said.
Officials in Bangladesh said that the restaurant owner was accused of selling AK-47 rifles that had been stolen back in 2005. He fled to Malaysia when he was on bail while facing charges linked to the case.
His uncle, Abdul Qader, rejected any claims that his nephew was linked to any terrorist group.
An earlier version of this report incorrectly named Andaleeb Ahmed as among the five men who carried out the Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka.