Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET on 2017-07-03
Mourners and dignitaries said prayers, laid flowers and wept Saturday at the site of a deadly terror attack one year ago at a café in Dhaka, now a private residence.
Gulshan Road No 79, the former site of the Holey Artisan Bakery, was opened to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. a year after five young men armed with guns and knives stormed the place on July 1, 2016, taking dozens hostages and killing 20 of them.
Most of the victims were foreigners who were brutally hacked to death. Two café workers and two policemen also died.
Politicians, diplomats, activists, actors, police personnel, regular people and relatives of the dead thronged the site of the attack to pay their respects.
“The government has been fighting against terrorists with the help of law enforcing agencies. But they are not doing anything to stop imbibing the ideology of militants,” secular activist Shahriar Kabir told BenarNews at the site.
After placing floral wreaths at the site, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior official with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), demanded the government clarify who was responsible for the attack.
Authorities have repeatedly denied any IS presence in the country, while acknowledging that a faction of the homegrown Jamaat-ul Mujaideen Bangladesh (JMB) has been influenced the Mideast-based terror group.
“Various foreign organizations have said the attack was planned by the Islamic State. IS also claimed the attack, but the government denies it. We do not want such mystery,” he said.
Obaidul Quader, general secretary of ruling Awami League, said Bangladesh civil society needed to assist the government in combatting extremism that led to the tragedy.
“Militancy has not been wiped out, but it has been weakened,” he told journalists after paying his respects. “We cannot simply rely on state power. A platform must be developed using the power of patriotic unity.”
The five militants and one café worker died of bullet and shrapnel wounds during the army operation that ended the siege at around dawn on July 2, according to an official forensics report released Saturday.
The five attackers, identified as Mir Sameh Mobashwer, Rohan Ibn Imtiaz, Nibras Islam, Khairul Islam Payel and Shafiqul Islam Ujjal, were killed by police commandos.
Meanwhile, about 600 km (373 miles) away from Dhaka, police arrested three female militants and seized suicide vests, a pistol, bombs and gunpowder in a pre-dawn raid at a suspected militant den in southern Kushtia district.
Two of the women were wives of leaders of Neo-JMB, a terror group that has embraced IS ideology, according to police.
“One of the female militants wearing suicide vest tried to swoop on the police. But police could capture her before the vest went off,” Mehedi Hasan, superintendent of police of Kushtia district, told BenarNews.