Bangladesh: Doctor Among Three Identified as Café Attack Funders

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.10.18
Dhaka
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161018-BD-funders-620.jpg Bangladeshi security personnel stand guard after gunmen stormed a café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, July 1, 2016.
AFP

Bangladeshi police Tuesday revealed the identities of three men who allegedly financed a deadly terrorist attack at a café in Dhaka, including a doctor whom they believe may have joined Islamic State militants in Syria.

Two of the men are suspected members of Bangladeshi militant group Neo-JMB – which authorities blame for the July 1 terrorist siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant – but who were slain during police raids in the months after the attack. Police identified them as retired army Maj. Zahidul Islam and Tanvir Qadri, a former banker.

The third man, pediatrician Rokonuddin Khandker, has moved to Syria from Bangladesh along with his wife, two daughters and a son-in-law, and is suspected to have given 8 million taka (U.S. $101,000) to Neo-JMB, a senior police official told BenarNews.

Tuesday’s announcement marked the first time that police named any of the people suspected of financing the attack claimed by IS that left 29 people dead, including 20 hostages, two policemen and the five alleged attackers. Government officials have adamantly denied that IS has a presence in Bangladesh, but have conceded that Neo-JMB, a faction of home-grown militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), ascribes to IS’s extremist ideology.

“The financiers of the Holey Artisan attack have been identified,” Monirul Islam, the chief of the counter-terrorist wing of Bangladeshi police, told reporters in Dhaka, as he named the three men.

Apart from Khandker’s sizable financial donation, Islam “gave all of his retirement benefits to the outfit” and Qadri “sold his apartment” and donated proceeds from the sale and other savings to Neo-JMB, Monirul Islam said.

The 50-year-old doctor used to work at the Dhaka Children’s Hospital, but he and his 45-year-old wife, Naima Akhter, who taught botany at a government-run college, moved to Syria with their children and in-law, police said.

“The police have the information that Dr. Rokonuddin and his family members have been in Raqqah. We suspect that he may have joined the IS,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told BenarNews, referring to a Syrian city that is a stronghold for IS.

Cash seized

Last month, Monirul Islam told reporters that funds for the café attack had been sent to Bangladesh from the Middle East through an informal money transfer known as hundi. As much as 1.4 million taka ($17,780) had been transferred for the attack through this system, he said then. A senior police official told BenarNews that this sum was sent from the United Arab Emirates.

At the time, police did not name any of the people suspected of funding the attack. But on Oct. 8, another person suspected of being a top financier of Neo-JMB, Abdur Rahman, died after jumping from a five-story apartment building as authorities were moving in to arrest him, officials said.

During the raid Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) recovered 30 million taka ($381,000) from his apartment.

“That money belonged to the Neo-JMB,” Monirul Islam said, adding that the group used such cash to fund operational activities, provide its most dedicated members with allowances and help meet the education expenses of its members’ children.

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