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Bangladesh police kill ‘mastermind’ of Dhaka cafe attack

Bangladesh police kill ‘mastermind’ of Dhaka cafe attack

DHAKA: Bangladeshi security forces killed three Islamist militants on Saturday, including a Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen accused of masterminding an attack on a cafe in Dhaka last month that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, police said.

The militants were cornered in a hideout on the outskirts of the capital and, having refused to surrender, were killed in the ensuing gunbattle, Monirul Islam, the head of the Dhaka police counterterrorism unit, said.

He initially said four militants had been killed but later revised the number to three.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina praised police and intelligence agencies for the operation which killed Tamim Chowdhury, who was believed to have planned the attack.

“The main mastermind of the Holey Artisan (attack) has been eliminated,” she told reporters at her office, referring to the Gulshan cafe incident.

“The nation has become free of another curse,” the prime minister said, adding that the “elimination of the extremists” would bolster “people’s confidence”.

The police raid came two days before US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to arrive in Bangladesh, the highest-ranked Western official to visit the South Asian nation since the attack.

Officials said security issues, including Dhaka-Washington DC anti-terror cooperation, will feature during Kerry’s talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart on Monday.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the assault on the cafe in a posh neighbourhood where militants singled out non-Muslims and foreigners, killing Italians, Japanese, an American and an Indian.

The government has consistently denied the presence in the country of any transnational militant organisation such as IS or Al Qaeda.

But police believe that Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has pledged allegiance to IS, was involved in organising the cafe attack.

The scale of that attack and the targeting of foreigners have cast a shadow over foreign investment in the poor South Asian economy, whose $28 billion garments export industry is the world’s second largest.

Analysts say IS in April identified Tamim Chowdhury as its national commander.

“According to our evidence we are now sure that Tamim was among the three killed,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters. “So the chapter of Tamim has ended here.”

He said Chowdhury was one of the main suppliers of funds and arms for several recent attacks. He had returned to Bangladesh in October 2013 via Abu Dhabi, A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque, the inspector general of police, said.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2016

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