Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh led a national memorial service in Dhaka on Monday for victims of the July 1 café terror attack claimed by the so-called Islamic State group (IS) that killed 22 people from five countries.
With flags at half-mast all over Dhaka on a second day of national mourning, Hasina arrived at Bangladesh Army Stadium around 10 a.m. to place a floral wreath before a red-carpeted platform with a white cloth roof.
The flags of India, Italy, Bangladesh Japan and the United States were suspended across the back of the platform, overlooking three coffins.
Two of the coffins were wrapped in the green and red flag of Bangladesh while a third was draped in both the Bangladesh and the U.S. flags, in honor of a dual citizen.
The bodies of 17 foreigners also slain by terrorists at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka were taken directly to the airport for repatriation, military spokesman Lt. Col. Rashidul Hasan told BenarNews.
Hasina stood solemnly in front of the coffins for some moments before talking privately to relatives and foreign diplomats. No speeches were made at the memorial event.
She spoke briefly to Italian Ambassador Mario Palma, Japanese Ambassador Masato Watanabe, Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla, and US Ambassador Marcia Bernicat.
Hasina held the hand of the Italian envoy and heaved a sigh before leaving him.
Military authorities handed the coffins of the three Bangladeshi nationals to waiting relatives in a ceremony broadcast live of state-owned and private TV stations.
Mourners pay homage to victims killed at the Holey Artisan Bakery at a national memorial service in Dhaka, July 4, 2016. [Yasin Kabir Joy/BenarNews]
‘The enemies of human civilization’
Thousands of mourners from all walks of life braved an overnight rain and queued for hours to enter the stadium and pay respects to the dead.
A mood of shock and anger pervaded the crowd.
“I have come here to show my hatred for the terrorists who have killed innocent people and stigmatized our country’s long-standing tradition of religious harmony,” rain-soaked Mahbub Alam, a student of Dhaka University, told BenarNews outside the stadium.
Holding a flower in hand, he waited for hours before army personnel opened the stadium to the public after Hasina left the venue.
“Terrorists have no religion, no nationality, no color, no creed…Their only identity is they are the enemies of the human civilization. What crime did these innocent foreigners and Bangladeshis commit?” he asked.
Smriti Khan, a teenage girl also waiting to enter the stadium, told BenarNews: “The militants have no place in Bangladesh. We will resist them at any cost. We do not want to see a repeat of such a tragic incident anywhere in the world, let alone Bangladesh.”
Armed gunmen burst into the upscale restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter late on Friday, shouting “Allahu Akbar” before separating Muslims from non-Muslims and slaughtering the latter, witnesses and survivors said. The attack was claimed by the so-called Islamic State terror group.
Nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, one dual U.S.-Bangladesh national and two Bangladeshis were killed by attackers inside the restaurant.
Two senior police officials died as attackers fired guns and hurled explosives at law enforcement officers attempting to respond to the attack. Dozens of others were wounded.
Army commandoes stormed the restaurant at around 7:40 a.m. Saturday, killing five militants and capturing another, and rescuing 13 people.
An army spokesman announced Saturday that security forces had killed six militants at the restaurant, but lowered that number to five on Monday without naming the sixth person or clarifying how he had been killed.
Five attackers charged
Police on Monday filed charges under a 2009 anti-terrorism law against the five militants killed during the army operation, Rafiqul Islam, assistant commissioner of police of the Gulshan zone in Dhaka, told BenarNews.
Police named four of them as BRAC University student Rohan Ibn Imtiaz; Mir Sameh Mobashwer, a student of Scholastica School, an elite high school in Dhaka; Monash University Malaysia student Nibras Islam; and Khairul Islam, a madrasa student in northwestern Bogra district.
Mizanur Rahman, the officer-in-charge of Dhunot police station in Bogra, told BenarNews late Monday that they had identified the fifth attacker as Shafiqul Islam Ujjal.
“Today, his father identified his son, Ujjal, in the photo printed in the newspapers. We will further examine to ascertain his identity. He has been a member of the JMB,” Rahman told BenarNews, referring to the banned militant group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
The propaganda wing of the Islamic State released photos of five men it said had carried out the attack, smiling and toting guns in front of an IS flag. Officials have yet to confirm whether the five men pictured are in fact the five attackers.
"They are all Bangladeshis. They are from rich families, they have good educational background," AP quoted the Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal as saying of the attackers on Sunday.
Shahriar Sharif in Dhaka contributed to this report.