Bangladeshi-American who was killed in raid on suspected militant hideout was friend of Dhaka cafe attacker: Police

Bangladeshi policemen at a checkpoint in Dhaka on July 5, 2016.
Bangladeshi policemen at a checkpoint in Dhaka on July 5, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (Reuters) - One of nine suspected militants killed in a police raid in Bangladesh this week was a Bangladeshi-American who was a friend of one of the gunmen who attacked a Dhaka cafe on July 1, killing 22 people, the police said on Thursday (July 28).

On Tuesday, the police raided a building in a Dhaka suburb and killed nine militants, who police said were from the same domestic group as the cafe attackers, and who had been plotting their own similar attack.

Seven of the nine dead militants had been identified from their fingerprints, which are taken when national identity cards are issued, and one turned out to a wanted Bangladeshi-American, said Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman. "Shazad Rouf, 24, was an American passport holder and had been missing for six months," Mr Rahman told Reuters.

Rouf's father had filed a missing person report for him on Feb 6, the spokesman said, adding that Rouf had been wanted by police in connection with a case filed under an anti-terrorism law on suspicion of plotting a subversive act.

Also wanted in connection with that case was one of Rouf's friends, who was also one of the five cafe attackers, Nibras Islam, Mr Rahman said.

Rouf was from a well-off family in Dhaka, Mr Rahman said, though adding he had no information about his US connection.

A US embassy spokesman declined to comment immediately.

The attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, a cafe in Dhaka's diplomatic quarter, was one of the most brazen militant assaults in the country's history. Most of the 22 people killed were foreigners and police have been scouring the country for accomplices of the five gunmen who were all killed when police ended the siege.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the cafe attack, but the government has dismissed suggestions the group has a presence in the country.

Instead, the authorities have blamed the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh domestic group, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, for the cafe attack.

In the past year, Al-Qaeda and ISIS have made competing claims over the killings of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million people.

While the authorities blame the violence on domestic militants, security experts say the scale and sophistication of the cafe attack suggested links to a trans-national network.

ISIS has warned that violence would continue until Islamic law was established worldwide, saying in a video the Dhaka cafe attack was just a glimpse of what was to come.