South Asia

Another Alleged Mastermind of Bangladesh Bakery Attack Arrested

A Bangladeshi security officer takes photographs of bodies of suspected militants at a morgue in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Bangladesh police say a militant suspected of being one of the leaders of an attack on a popular cafe in Bangladesh's capital last summer that left 20 people dead has been killed in a shootout with security officials. (AP Photo)

A Bangladeshi security officer takes photographs of bodies of suspected militants at a morgue in Dhaka. Credit: AP

New Delhi: Counter terrorism police in Bangladesh have arrested another suspected mastermind of a July attack on a restaurant in the capital, officials said.

The suspect, Jahangir Alam, was picked up on Friday night in a raid in Tangail district, 120 km north of the capital, Dhaka, said Monirul Islam, head of the counter terrorism and transnational crime unit of the Dhaka metropolitan police. Details of the arrest procedures were not clear.

The July 1 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, a popular restaurant frequented by foreigners and wealthy Bangladeshis, left 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, dead. Five young men belonging to the domestic militant group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, stormed the restaurant, sprayed bullets and threw grenades, and slaughtered the hostages.

The attack by the group, which is thought to be inspired by ISIS militants, demonstrated the rising threat of radical Islam in the South Asian country governed by largely secular laws. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied that the Sunni extremist group has any presence in the country.

Since the July assault, authorities have reinforced a crackdown on militants and killed about 40 suspects, including what they say were other masterminds of the restaurant attack. No major attacks have been reported since July, with authorities claiming success in their drive against hard liners.

The restaurant killings followed several years of smaller attacks targeting scores of individuals considered by militants as enemies of radical ideology, including atheists, writers, bloggers, religious minorities and foreigners.

The 35-year-old Alam, who also used other names including Rajib and Gandhi, was wanted by police who considered him one of the planners of the attack. Police said Alam had a close connection with Tamim Chowdhury, a Canadian of Bangladesh origin, who was also killed in August in a raid near Dhaka. Police said Chowdhury was the main planner of the group.

On January 6, Nurul Islam Marzan, another top suspect in the restaurant attack, was killed in a police raid in Dhaka.

Islam said they would interrogate Alam, and a magistrate in Dhaka granted police eight days to keep him for questioning.

On Tuesday, the owners of the Holey Artisan Bakery, which had been taped off by police since July, reopened in a different place.

(AP)