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Dhaka Police Arrest Sister of Bangladeshi Woman Facing Terror Charges in Australia

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
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A Bangladeshi police officer stands guard in front of the building that once housed the Holey Artisan Bakery café where 29 people died in a July 2016 militant attack, July 1, 2017.

The younger sister of a 24-year-old Bangladeshi woman accused of a militant-inspired knife attack in Australia faces similar charges after she pulled a blade on a law-enforcement official in Dhaka, authorities said Tuesday.

Dhaka police said Asmaul Husna, 22, [alias Sumona] attacked Tohidul Islam, the assistant commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), while officers were at her apartment Monday night to get information about her sister, Momena Shoma, who is facing terrorism charges in Melbourne.

“As the police personnel were about to leave the apartment, the accused Sumona came out of a room with a knife in hand and started stabbing” Islam, a police report said.

Sumona shouted “Allahu akbar,” which in Arabic means “God is great,” when she began the attack, the report said. The other officers snatched the knife away and Islam was taken to a hospital where he was declared out of danger, the report said.

DMP spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews that police filed anti-terrorism charges against Sumona on Monday after she admitted during interrogation that she and her older sister were members of a faction of the banned extremist group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).

Bangladeshi authorities have blamed that faction, Neo-JMB, for a 2016 terrorist attack at a Dhaka café that left 29 people dead, including 17 foreigners. Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, but Bangladeshi authorities blame home-grown militants for the massacre.

The two women apparently were radicalized by watching militant videos online and on social media, according to a preliminary police report obtained by BenarNews.

“Both sisters got inspired to devote to ‘jihad’ and vowed to fight for establishing Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh,” the report said, referring to the Arabic term for struggle.

Police seized a laptop and two mobile phones from Sumona’s apartment, officials said.

‘IS-inspired attack’ in Melbourne

Australian police filed terrorism-related charges against Shoma on Saturday over what investigators alleged was an “IS-inspired attack” when the Bangladeshi woman stabbed a 56-year-old man in the neck while he was asleep at his home.

The man was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery for injuries that were not life threatening, police said. His young daughter was present at the time of the attack, but was not injured.

The man’s neighbor heard a commotion and went to the man’s assistance, police said.

Shoma was arrested at the scene and taken to the hospital after suffering a minor hand injury, according to an Australian police statement.

Shoma, according to the statement, traveled to Melbourne on Feb. 1 on a student visa and moved into the victim’s home six days later as a renter while continuing her studies.

The daily newspaper The Australian said that until late last year Shoma attended the North South University, the same school attended by four of the Holey Artisan Café attackers.

Australian police investigators on Saturday said they were not looking for any other suspect in the Shoma case.

“We will allege this was a standalone, IS-inspired attack, designed to cause harm to our community,” Australian Federal Acting Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said in a statement.

Since Sept. 12, 2014, when Australia raised its national terrorism threat level, police have charged 85 people – including Shoma – as a result of 36 counter-terrorism operations around Australia, the statement also said.

The women’s father, Moniruzzaman, declined BenarNews requests for an interview. A friend, who identified herself as Julie, said Sumona used to say prayers regularly.

“But I never thought that she would turn into a militant,” Julie said, adding that Sumona “had always been immersed in social media.”

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