On the night of July 1, 2016, five militants stormed into the Holey Artisan Bakery and killed 22 people, mostly foreigners
Two years after the terrorist attack in Gulshan’s Holey Artisan Bakery, police are almost done with their investigation into the people whose plans and actions brought the crime into fruition.
Police found 21 people involved in the Holey Artisan attack, starting from its planning and preparation to execution. Of them, 13, including the attackers, are dead.
Investigators insist that they will be able to wrap up their investigation within the first week of July. There is a legal obligation to obtain the approval of the Home Ministry before filing a charge sheet in any case filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act. That approval process has begun.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Md Asaduzzaman Mia on Thursday assured that the charge sheet in the attack case will be submitted within 10 days.
Five terrorists took part in the July 1, 2016 attack on Holey Artisan Bakery, killed 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, and shot dead two police officers. Army commandos stormed the restaurant the next morning, killing the terrorists and recovering the hostages.
A case was filed with Gulshan Police Station on July 4, 2016 and the police Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit took charge of the investigation.
CTTC’s Additional Commissioner Monirul Islam said: “A total of 21 people were involved in the Holey Artisan attack. Most of the names came up in confessions and statements of several accused and witnesses.”
“Among them 13 died in different drives, six are under arrest and two are on the run”, he said.
Five attackers – Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasser, Khairul Islam and Shafiqul Islam – were all killed in the Operation Thunderbolt that the Para Commando Battalion launched at the bakery on the morning of July 2.
Eight other suspects including alleged mastermind Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury were killed during other anti-militant operations across Bangladesh that followed the Holey attack.
Currently, six suspects- Jahangir Alam alias Rajib alias Gandhi, Rashed alias Rash, Sohel Mahfuz alias Hatkata Mahfuz, Rakibul Islam Reagan, Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan, and Hadisur Rahman Sagor - are in custody. All of them had told the court about their roles in the attack.
Two suspects - Shariful Islam Khalid and Mamunur Rashid Ripon - who were also involved in killing of Rajshahi University Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, fled to India before the attack took place.
Investigators have so far failed to provide any evidence of involvement of Abul Hasnat Reza Karim, who was a hostage with his family at the bakery.
Officials with knowledge of the investigation said Sarwar, also named as Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, was a top leader of New JMB who supervised the whole attack.
Major (retd) Zahid and Tarek reportedly provided training on physical and weapons operations to Gulshan attackers at different militant dens at Gaibandha and Bogra while Tanvir Kaderi was a financier and shelter provider. The attackers stayed at Tanvir’s Bashundhara house.
CTTC officials said Boro Mizan was an arms and explosives supplier who collected explosives, detonator and arms from border regions and supplied them to New JMB attackers.
Mahfuz and Sagor also supplied arms for the Gulshan attack, said investigators.
A long investigation
Investigators said that they are taking the time to finalize the charges of the case, keeping in mind that no innocent people should get punished.
“We have to give foolproof evidence in the charge sheet, otherwise culprits might be freed and all our efforts would be in vain,” said DMP Commissioner Asaduzzman Mia.
CTTC officials said the charge sheet preparation took time as the investigators were looking at the case from all possible aspects - to identify the attackers and the planners, and also the suppliers and financiers of the arms.
A Dhaka court on June 24 asked the CTTC unit to submit its investigations by July 26. This was the nineteenth extension the CTTC got for filing the report.
DMP chief Asaduzzaman Mia said: “We have taken specialist comments, collected all supportive information and documents, and statements of the witnesses so that no criminal goes free.”
How the attack was executed
CTTC chief Monirul Islam said that the attack in the heart of Dhaka’s diplomatic zone was planned a few months ahead, and the motive was to draw global attention to Dhaka.
The recruits were trained separately. They received 28-day special training at a Gaibandha shoal. Major Zahid, who died in Roopnagar, was the chief trainer, he added.
After the training, they were brought to Dhaka and kept at a house in Bashundhara rented by Tanvir. At that time, they had not fixed their target but decided that it would be somewhere in Gulshan or Baridhara, Monirul said.
When looking for potential targets, they came across Holey Artisan, a poorly guarded place frequented by foreigners. It was chosen a few days before the attack, he added.
Arms and explosives from India
Investigators said Sohel and Boro Mizan supplied firearms and explosives used in the Gulshan attack.
The AK22 rifles used in the attack were produced in a factory in India’s Bihar. The small arms were also brought from India.
Boro Mizan and Chhoto Mizan brought these weapons to Bangladesh through the Chapainawabganj border under Sohel’s supervision.
Arms and explosives were then brought to Dhaka hidden in mango baskets and were first taken to Tanvir’s Bashundhara residence.
Arrested militants have said in confessions that the grenades used in the attack were made by Sohel at his Shewrapara residence.