The court gave death penalty to seven and acquitted another accused in Holey Artisan attack case
Law enforcement in Bangladesh is unequivocal. Despite their efforts to tie themselves to transnational terror, all the terrorist outfits in Bangladesh are homegrown and have no connection with global terrorist organizations.
The conviction of seven men for the Holey Artisan attack once again saw an attempt to link militancy to international terror networks.
Shock and alarm reverberated throughout the audience gathered at court yesterday when the verdict was announced in the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe attack case. The verdict of capital punishment was widely anticipated, but it was a gesture of impudence from the condemned that was the cause of the alarm.
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Rakibul Islam Regan, one of the eight defendants, had been wearing a knit black praying cap. But after the verdict, he flipped the cap inside out, revealing the logo of the infamous terrorist group Islamic State (IS).
Footage of Rakibul wearing the IS logo-emblazoned cap was also shown in live coverage of various Bangladeshi TV channels.
When the prisoners were hauled back into a van to be returned to prison, another condemned – Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi – was also seen wearing the cap.
Seven among the eight had been condemned to death and fined Tk50,000. One other had been acquitted of all charges.
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Although the police investigation linked the attackers to the New JMB, the attackers claimed to be involved with the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility after the attack. Security had been heightened at and around the court and throughout the capital.
Monirul Islam, head of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes unit of the police, that led the anti-militant operations, expressed his dismay at the gesture.
He told the media: "Prisoners are always checked when they are brought from prison to court. We are certainly going to look into exactly how they got their hands on the caps.
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"According to our intelligence, the Islamic State has never produced or branded caps. It is a cap. Whether it is a symbol of the Islamic State is a matter of analysis. Black flags are common among radical Islamist groups, even the al-Qaeda uses a black flags emblazoned with the kalima. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (slain leader of the Islamic State) never had the bright idea of manufacturing IS-branded caps."
Security expert Brig Gen (retd) Sakhawat Hossain said members of law enforcement agencies are still ignorant about militant ideology and failed to understand the significance of the symbolism.
He told Dhaka Tribune: "He wore the cap as an act of defiance and protest. I think nobody seized the cap because they associate Arabic as sacred and may have considered it an ornamentation by the radical Islamic militants."
Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq told the press that he will speak to authorities concerned to swiftly investigate the matter.
Inspector General of Prisons Brig Gen Mustafa Kamal told Dhaka Tribune: "Prisoners are in custody of the police when they are sent to court or brought back. A three-member committee has been formed to investigate whether they got hold of the cap inside the prison. The report has to be submitted within five working days. We have heightened security in all the prisons nationwide as a precaution."