Bangladeshi police said Monday they had identified two homes in Dhaka which militants may have used before carrying out an attack on a café in the diplomatic quarter that killed 20 hostages and two policemen.
Five men, including a college professor who owned one of the properties, have been arrested over suspected links to the people who attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka’s Gulshan 2 neighborhood on July 1-2, Deputy Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidur Rahman told BenarNews.
“One house is in the Bashundhara residential area and the other is in Shewrapara. We have recovered grenades from the Shewrapara house and sand-packed cantons for keeping grenades from the Bashundhara house,” he said.
The recovered grenades were similar to those used in the attack, he said.
He identified the five men in police custody as S.M. Gias Uddin Ahsan, a professor at North South University in Dhaka; his nephew Alam Chowdhury; Mahbubur Rahman, a man who managed Ahsan’s property; Nurul Islam, the owner of the house in Shewrapara; and Milon Hossain, a schoolteacher.
The two homeowners were arrested because they did not keep information on the people who were staying in their homes, and they did not provide police with forms giving details on tenants, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews.
Four months ago Dhaka police announced that they were implementing a policy to require such information from all landlords in the city as part of an effort to prevent militants from infiltrating it and setting up local dens.
Khan also revealed that intelligence agencies had alerted the government about the potential for an attack in Dhaka around July 1.
“But we had no specific information where the attack would take place. Due to the intelligence information, the police reached the site in three minutes and confined the attackers who planned to flee,” Khan told BenarNews on Monday.
Attack on Bauls
The café attack by religious extremists marked the first one that targeted a large group of people in Bangladesh. Most of the victims who were killed with machetes inside the café were foreigners. The attack followed a deadly spate of smaller-scale attacks that had targeted secular writers, members of religious minorities and others since February 2013.
On Saturday, suspected hardliners injured three Bauls – or followers of the Bengali philosopher and poet Lalon – in a machete-attack in southwestern Chuadanga district, police said.
Police have arrested three suspects in connection with that attack, Humayun Kabir, the officer-in-charge of Jobonnagar police station, told BenarNews.
“Some local hardline people did not like Baul Shahidul Islam who set up a house to practice Lalon poems,” Kabir said. “They attacked three Bauls with sharp weapons as they were sleeping Saturday night. One woman was seriously injured.”
Followers of Lalon do not shun Islam, but they do not pray, which is a requirement for Muslims, he said.
Bounty for Militants
In other news, law enforcement agencies on Monday said they had uncovered a training ground in northern Bogra district, where the perpetrators of the café attack were trained to use weapons.
“They trained here. We have recovered jihadi books and sharp weapons in the operation,” Benazir Ahmed, the director general of the counter-terrorist Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), told a news conference according to media reports.
Ahmed announced a reward of 1 million taka (U.S. $12,760) to militants who denounce their groups and aid police and military intelligence in arresting radicals.
Two men still missing
Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews that two men who were inside the café during the attack – British citizen Hasnat Karim and Canadian resident and University of Toronto student Tahmid Hasnat Khan – were not in police custody, as alleged by human rights advocacy groups.
But last week anonymous police sources who were familiar with the investigation into the attack said that the authorities were still holding the two men on suspicion of having been part of the plot, after police announced that had been released after being questioned.
Human rights groups have challenged the official statement about the whereabouts of the two men.
“Karim and Khan have not had access to a lawyer, and the police continue to deny holding them although they are clearly still being held by the Detective Branch. The authorities need to either charge or release them immediately,” Brad Adams, Asia director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement issued over the weekend.
On Monday, officials at the British and Canadian officials did not respond to questions from BenarNews about whether they had any information on the two or whether they were providing them with consular services.