Bangladesh: Slain Suspects in Dhaka Café Attack Buried

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2016-09-22
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160922-BD-graves-1000.jpg A man walks past the freshly covered graves of suspected militants who carried out the deadly July terrorist siege at a cafe in Dhaka, Sept. 22, 2016.
AFP

Bangladeshi authorities Thursday buried five men suspected of attacking a Dhaka café and who were killed when security forces broke the siege nearly 12 weeks ago, officials said.

The body of a sixth man, who worked as a cook at the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant and who was also killed in the July 2 raid that smashed the siege, was buried alongside the remains of the five alleged militants at the Jurain Graveyard in Dhaka.

Saiful Chowkider, a pizza maker at the high-end café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, was seen behaving suspiciously and may have acted as an accomplice during the siege in which the assailants hacked to death 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, according to officials.

Police said they went ahead with the burials because the families of the suspected had not claimed their relatives’ remains from the morgue of a local military hospital for close to three months. An Islamic charity, Anjuman Mufidul Islam, undertook the burials after police handed over the remains of the six men.

“At around 5 p.m. Thursday, the police buried the six militants at the Jurain graveyard, through Anjuman Mufidul Islam, as unclaimed bodies. The parents and relatives have not asked for their bodies. So we have buried them according to Muslim rituals,” Masudur Rahman, the spokesman for Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told BenarNews.

“If the family members had asked for the bodies, we would have thought of handing the corpses over to them,” he added.

‘This is a pain for us’

But a relative of one of the slain suspects disputed that assertion. Families of some of the slain suspects had said earlier that Bangladeshi authorities had denied them access to their remains, and that they were not even allowed to identify the bodies in person.

Josna, a sister of slain suspect Khairul Islam Payel, told BenarNews that her family had contacted police in order to collect her brother’s remains. She said the family was not notified about his burial.

“But we have not filed a written application to get the body. The police assured us that they would give us the body. Now, we come to know that my brother has been buried,” she said in phone interview, referring to police in the northern district of Bogra.

“This is a pain for us that we cannot see his body before his burial,” Josna added.

Rahman of the DMP said the identities of the dead men were verified through DNA tests and checks on their fingerprints that were stored in a national database.

Payel was a student at a madrassa – and Islamic boarding school – in Bogra along with Shafiqul Islam Ujjal, another of the dead suspects. The three other suspects were from well-to-do Bangladeshi families and had attended some of the nation’s top schools before they went missing from their families months before the café attack.

Apart from Payel, Ujjal and Chowkider, the other three men who were buried on Thursday were identified as Rohan Ibn Imtiaz, who was studying for a business degree at BRAC University and was the son of an official in the ruling Awami League party; Nibras Islam, a former student at North South University in Dhaka, who was enrolled at Monash University Malaysia; and Mir Sameh Mobashwer, a student at the Scholastica school in Dhaka.

Collecting DNA samples

The Middle Eastern-based extremist group Islamic State claimed that its fighters carried out the café attack – the deadliest terror act in the country’s history. After the siege, IS’s news agency circulated individual photos online of the five men toting an assault rifle and wearing identical red turbans as each stood in front of the group’s black flag.

Before and after the attack, Bangladeshi authorities have maintained that IS has no presence in the country and that Neo-JMB, a faction of home-grown militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), was behind the attack.

Since the siege, Bangladeshi authorities have killed at least 20 suspects allegedly connected to it. Two men who were inside the café on the night of July 1, British national Hasnat Karim and Tahmib Hasib Khan, a student at the University of Toronto, are the only suspects in custody as part of the investigation into the attack, according to police.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the remains of the five suspected militants were kept in the morgue for nearly a dozen weeks because forensic investigators needed to collect samples for DNA testing.

Commenting on the case of the sixth man, Chowkider, the minister said he had been spotted moving around the café with a weapon during the siege.

“He may have links with the five attackers,” Khan told BenarNews.

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