Bangladesh: Canadian Among Two Identified as ‘Masterminds’ of Café Attack

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
2016.08.02
Dhaka
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160802-BD-cops-1000 Bangladeshi officers stand guard in front of an apartment building in Dhaka, where police killed nine suspected extremists, July 26, 2016.
AFP

Bangladeshi police on Tuesday identified a Canadian and a former military officer as suspected masterminds of a terrorist attack that killed 20 hostages at a café in Dhaka last month.

Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Chowdhury and fugitive ex-army Maj. Syed Mohammad Ziaul Haque are suspected leaders of home-grown militant groups, police said in announcing bounties of 2 million taka (U.S. $25,565) on each of their heads.

Both men are wanted in connection with the July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery café as well as an attack on July 7 that targeted a prayer gathering in northwestern Bangladesh on the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday, and which left four people dead, Bangladesh’s police chief told a news conference in Dhaka.

“During the course of the investigation, we detected mastermind Tamim Chowdhury. He has been leading the new JMB [Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh]. ...We do not know whether he is in Bangladesh or outside the country,” Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque told reporters.

Major Haq was dismissed from the army for allegedly organizing an attempted coup, and he now leads Ansarullah Bangla Team, Hoque said. Police earlier had blamed ABT for being behind a spate of killings targeting secular Bangladeshi bloggers since February 2015.

“He is another mastermind,” the police chief said.

Links to IS, al-Qaeda?

According to a report published in Bangladesh’s Daily Star newspaper in early June, the group commanded by Major Haque is aligned with al-Qaeda, while the JMB faction headed by the Canadian Chowdhury is aligned with Islamic State.

For months – and even since the attack on the café, which was claimed by IS – Bangladeshi officials have denied that IS or al-Qaeda have a presence in the country.

However, according to the Daily Star, IS propaganda magazine Dabiq recently published an interview with Chowdhury. Dabiq identified him as Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif and described him as the so-called emir, or leader, of IS “soldiers in Bengal,” the Star reported.

“The militant activities would come down if the two were arrested,” Hoque said.

According to media reports in India, Chowdhury may have fled there.

Chowdhury, 30, was born on July 25, 1986, and entered Bangladesh on Oct. 5, 2013, via Dubai, the inspector-general said.

In June, Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia who specializes in counter-terrorism, told the Canadian newspaper National Post that the “wave of sectarian killings in Bangladesh – many of them attributed to a regional franchise of IS,” reportedly was being led by Chowdhury, a former resident of Ontario.

Officials at the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka did not respond to requests for comment from BenarNews.

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