Bangladesh: Two Men Missing in Dhaka Attack Aftermath, Families Say

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Shahriar Sharif
2016.07.14
Dhaka
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160714-BD-standoff-1000.jpg Bangladeshi security personnel stand guard outside a restaurant during a hostage crisis in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, July 2, 2016.
AFP

Relatives of two men who were inside a Dhaka café during a terrorist siege on July 1-2 and were later detained by police say their whereabouts are unknown, but they believe that authorities are still holding them nearly two weeks on.

Police have officially said that the two, Tahmid Hasib Khan and Hasnat Karim, were released on July 8 after being held for questioning following the attack that left at least 28 dead, including 20 hostages and two policemen.

“We have no information about their whereabouts,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police Masudur Rahman told BenarNews on Thursday.

But other police sources told BenarNews privately that the pair was being held on suspicion of complicity in Bangladesh’s deadliest terrorist act, which was claimed by Islamic State.

“We [cannot] announce that they are [still] in our custody. If we declare this, we must present them before a court in the next 24 hours. But we need to interrogate them further,” a police source said on condition of anonymity.

The fathers of the missing men deny the allegations that their sons helped carry out the overnight siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, saying they were caught up in the crisis as hostages.

“My son has not returned from police custody. He is not at fault,” Shahriar Khan, the father of Tahmid Hasib Khan, a student at the University of Toronto, told BenarNews. “We think he is in police custody.”

Tahmid Hasib Khan

‘The police cannot shrug off their duties’

According to a report published this week in the Globe and Mail newspaper, Canadian officials were engaging with Bangladeshi officials about Khan’s detention.

“Officials from Global Affairs Canada both in Ottawa and at the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka continue to monitor the situation closely and are engaged with relevant Bangladeshi officials in the aftermath of this terrible attack,” Chantal Gagnon, a spokeswoman for Canada’s foreign minister, told the newspaper, which described Khan as a permanent Canadian resident.

Karim, a British citizen who works as a businessman in Dhaka, was celebrating his daughter’s birthday at the restaurant with his wife and two children on the night of July 1, when machete-wielding gunmen burst into the upscale café, according to news agency reports.

The attackers reportedly separated Muslims from non-Muslims and hacked to death 20 people, including 17 foreigners.

“My son is innocent. If he is guilty, the police can charge him and we will fight this legally,” Karim’s father, Hasnat, told BenarNews.

Hasnat Karim

Mizanur Rahman, a former chairman of Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission, agreed.

If the two men are in fact suspects, then the Bangladeshi authorities must place them before a court of law, he said.

“The police cannot shrug off their duties by just saying that they do not know about [their whereabouts]. It is the duty of the state to find them out and reach out their families,” he told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International issued a statement suggesting that the authorities in Bangladesh may have been holding Karim for at least 10 days after he was rescued with other hostages, when security forces broke the siege by raiding the restaurant on the morning of July 2.

“If the authorities do have Hasnat Karim in custody, then they must release him immediately or produce him in a court of law for any charges to be filed against him,” Champa Patel, Amnesty’s director for South Asia, said Tuesday.

“Hasnat Karim’s family must immediately be told whether the Bangladeshi authorities are still holding him in custody and if so allow him contact with the outside world. They have already suffered a traumatic episode, and his enforced disappearance prolongs their ordeal,” Patel added.

Discrepancies in statements: police

Security forces killed at least five of the men who allegedly carried out the attack.

Police said initially that six gunmen were killed, but later amended that to say that the sixth man, Saiful Islam Chowdhury, was a hostage who may have been mistaken for one of the hostage takers. He was employed as a pizza maker at the restaurant.

Later, police again changed their information about Chowdhury, saying he likely collaborated with the terrorists because he had behaved suspiciously during the siege that lasted at least 10 hours.

Another suspect who was reportedly injured and captured alive, Zakir Hossain Shaon, died in a local hospital of his injuries on July 8. He worked as an assistant in the café’s kitchen and was beaten and tortured after being taken into police custody, alleged his father who told BenarNews that his son had never been involved in any militant activity.

According to Rahman, the spokesman for Dhaka police, 19 hostages escaped from the café on the night of July 1 as the crisis was unfolding there, and another 13 hostages were freed the next day.

All 32 were detained and brought in for questioning after the siege was over, he said.

“We released all of the 32 people. But the statements of the two – Hasnat Karim and Tahmid Khan – were inconsistent. So, we called them in again on July 8, interrogated them and let them go. They may not be innocent,” the police spokesman told BenarNews.

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