Bangladesh: Police Kill ‘Operation Commander’ of Café Attack

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
170106-BD-marzan-1000.jpg A Bangladeshi man stands near the bodies of slain suspected militants Nurul Islam Marzan and Saddam Hossain at the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital morgue, Jan. 6, 2017.

A senior militant leader who gave orders to and communicated with gunmen as they carried out Bangladesh’s deadliest international terrorist attack last year was killed along with another suspected militant by police in Dhaka on Friday, authorities said.

Nurul Islam Marzan, 28, was the “operation commander” of the July 1 overnight siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka carried out by the militant faction Neo-JMB, and he served as a deputy to Bangladeshi-born Canadian citizen, Tamim Chowdhury, the group’s coordinator and organizer who was the “main mastermind” of the attack, officials said.

Chowdhury and two other suspected Neo-JMB members were shot dead by police and security forces during a raid near Dhaka on Aug. 27.

Friday’s killings of Marzan and a man identified as Saddam Hossain, bring to 34 the number of suspected Neo-JMB militants who have been killed by police in raids and other shootings since the café siege left 29 dead, including 20 hostages from different countries, two policemen and the five gunmen who allegedly carried out the attack.

The extremist group Islamic State claimed responsibility for the massacre, but Bangladeshi officials have insisted that IS has no presence in the country and that Neo-JMB, a faction of the outlawed militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB), was behind it.

Marzan communicated with and guided the five gunmen while they were carrying out the siege, during which they hacked their victims to death. The hostage takers transmitted photos of gory remains from inside the restaurant, which Marzan then disseminated on social media, authorities said.

They said Saddam Hossain was wanted in connection with 10 militancy-related cases, including the slaying of Japanese citizen Kunio Hoshi in northern Bangladesh in October 2015.

“Marzan was the operational commander of the Gulshan (Holey Artisan café) attack,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews, adding that Tamim Chowdhury had tasked Marzan, his deputy, with the mission of “executing” the attack.

“Marzan and Saddam were killed in a gunfight with the police today in the Beribandh area,” he added, referring to a neighborhood in Dhaka. “Marzan had been a high-ranking leader of the Neo JMB and Saddam a listed militant in northern districts in Bangladesh.”

Marzan’s wife, Priyoti, was arrested on Oct. 9 during a raid on a suspected militant hideout in the Bangladeshi capital.

Hossain, 32, was a fugitive and had been charged in five cases of murder and attempted murder in the northern part of the country, including the killing of Hoshi, according to a text message sent out by the Bangladeshi national police’s counter-terrorism division. Seven citizens of Japan, a major aid-donor to Bangladesh, were among the hostages killed inside the café.

Incident at checkpoint

The killings took place early Friday morning in Beribandh, where police had mounted security checkpoints after receiving a tip that Marzan had been staying in the nearby Mohammadpur area, Monirul Islam, the chief of counter-terrorist police, told reporters.

At around 3 a.m., he said, on-duty police officers at a checkpoint on the Beribandh road asked a motorcycle to stop, but the riders threw grenades at them.

“The police counter fired; they fell from the motorcycle. They were taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital where the on-duty doctors declared them dead. They were Marzan and Saddam,” Islam said.

Kamal said four officers were injured in incident. The police recovered a pistol, a knife and the motorcycle.

“I was at my shop. Suddenly, I heard the sound of firing. But I did not go there, fearing something ominous,” Md Nuruzzaman, a tea seller working near the blood-stained site of the shooting, told BenarNews.

‘He has got punishment’

Hailing from northern Pabna district, Marzan was the son of a hosiery worker, Nizam Uddin.

Marzan finished his schooling at Pabna Alia Madrassa, an Islamic boarding school, in his home district. Marzan was admitted to Chittagong University, a state-run school, where he took Arabic studies, but he dropped out in 2015.

Marzan had been involved in the politics of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Bangladesh’s largest faith-based party, Jamaat-e-Islami, according to investigators.

His father told BenarNews that his son had been out of touch with the family for the past eight months.

“He has got punishment for his misdeeds; I have nothing to say about his death,” Uddin told BenarNews by phone.


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