Bangladesh arrests ‘mastermind’ of last year café massacre

January 14, 2017 10:00 pm

police escort suspected terrorist Jahangir Alam (C) in the capital Dhaka on January 14, 2017, after his arrest in connection with an attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery attack last year. (Photo by AFP)

Police in Bangladesh say they have detained another suspect in a terrorist attack on a Dhaka café last year, which claimed the lives of over 20 people.  
Monirul Islam, the head of the counter-terrorism police, confirmed on Saturday that Jahangir Alam had been arrested on Friday night during a raid in Elenga, a town in Tangail District, over 100 kilometers northwest of the capital Dhaka.
“He was one of the masterminds,” Islam further told reporters.
Bangladesh security forces have launched a major crackdown on suspected militants since a raid on the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka in early July, where more than 20 people, mainly foreign hostages, were killed.
The carnage occurred on July 1, when five assailants broke in the Holey Artisan Bakery café, situated in Dhaka’s Gulshan Thana, an affluent area with many embassies and frequented by foreign tourists, carrying crude bombs, machetes and pistols.  
They held hostage dozens of people, foreigners and locals alike, and during a gunfire that erupted between security forces and terrorists, all five terrorists were killed and two police officers lost their lives. The assailants, however, shot or hacked at least 22 people to death, mostly foreign nationals, before being gunned down some 10 hours later.
In the wake of the massacre, the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group claimed responsibility for the assault but authorities in Dhaka strongly dismissed the claim, arguing that Daesh had no presence in the Muslim-majority country. They, instead, blame the banned group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) for the deadly assault. However, according to security forces, the scale and sophistication of the attack suggested that transnational criminal networks had been involved.
Since then, Bangladesh security forces have launched a major crackdown on suspected militants amid growing concern of extrajudicial killings by security forces across the Asian country. Police have so far shot dead some 50 suspected militants including leader of the JMB, Tamim Chowdhury, the primary architect of the cafe siege. Several other suspects have also been arrested.
According to Yusuf Ali, an additional deputy commissioner of the Dhaka police force, the 32-year-old Alam was one of the “main” masterminds behind the carnage.
“He was a member of a new faction of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and was directly involved in the murder of at least 22 religious minorities including Hindu priests and a Christian and foreigners (at the cafe),” Ali added.
Police investigation shows that Alam had close contacts with Chowdhury, and had led at least “two dozen” terrorist attacks outside the capital.  
The Friday arrest came a week after security forces gunned down two other suspected militants, including another plotter of the cafe carnage.
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