Bangladesh police identify cafe attack 'mastermind'

Bangladeshi soldiers and police walk along a street on July 2.
Bangladeshi soldiers and police walk along a street on July 2.PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA • A Bangladeshi-Canadian national was one of the masterminds behind the mass killing at a Dhaka cafe earlier this month, Bangladesh police said yesterday, after new information came to light following a raid on a militant hideout.

Tamim Chowdhury, whose whereabouts are unknown, returned to Bangladesh from Canada three years ago. He has since led and financed efforts to radicalise young Muslims, officers with knowledge of a probe into recent attacks told Agence France-Presse.

The dual-nationality Chowdhury, in his early 30s, is thought by counterterrorism officials to lead a faction of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militant group, blamed for scores of murders of foreigners and religious minorities.

Five assailants stormed an upscale cafe in Dhaka's Gulshan neighbourhood on July 1 and killed 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, in Bangladesh's deadliest single militant attack.

A week later, gunmen attacked an Eid prayer gathering of 250,000 people held to mark the end of Ramadan, killing three.

"So far, what we have learnt is that Tamim Chowdhury is one of the masterminds of the attacks at Gulshan cafe and Sholakia Eid prayer ground," an officer said, on condition of anonymity.

"He trained the extremists behind the two attacks and the nine extremists killed at Kalyanpur," the officer said, referring to a shoot-out by police at a flat used as a militant hideout last Tuesday.

He added that Chowdhury "has been working to radicalise" young Muslims.

Another senior police officer said Chowdhury's role in fostering extremism was revealed during the interrogation of Rakibul Hasan, 25, who was arrested in the raid on the hideout.

According to an early police report on the raid, Chowdhury and others gave Hasan and the nine militants killed in the raid "money, explosives and weapons" and "trained and advised" them.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Bangladesh police identify cafe attack 'mastermind''. Print Edition | Subscribe