Dhaka terror plot thickens after alleged attacker dies in hospital
- On Friday, 8 July, Zakir Hossain Shaon died in a Dhaka hospital
- Shaon was an employee of the Holey Artisan Bakery, and was alleged to be an accomplice of the 1 July attackers
- Family says Shaon wasn\'t like the other attackers who were estranged from their families
- It is unclear whether his injuries were due to the crossfire or torture by security agencies
- Why the name of the North South University keeps cropping up in Bangladeshi terror attacks
- Why security apparatus insists this wasn\'t the handiwork of ISIS, despite the group claiming responsibility
The death of Zakir Hossain Shaon has further added to the mystery on the number of attackers and their accomplices who were part of the 1 July siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
Even as Bangladesh witnessed another attack on Eid, police claimed that the attackers of the first seige in the Gulshan 2 neighbourhood and the ones who attacked the Eid prayer gathering in Sholakia knew each other.
Shaon had been arrested in an injured state at midnight close to the bakery while the siege was still on, and security officials believed he was one of the suspects involved in the attack. He was taken to hospital, and security agencies had given statements that they were waiting for him to recover before they could interrogate him. But Shaon died a week after the attack, on Friday 8 July, at Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Family's word versus security establishment
Shaon's family says he was an employee at the bakery and was tortured by the police. The family claims he had called them on Friday evening, happy that his employers had given him an Eid bonus. The family insists he had no links to any terror outfit and that unlike the other attackers, who had disappeared, forcing their families to report them missing, he had remained in touch with his family.
It is also not clear if Shaon was injured in the attack, since the attackers had reportedly killed most of the people in the first 20 minutes of the siege, or if his injuries were a result of torture inflicted by the security agencies.
Shaon becomes the second employee of the Holey Artisan bakery to have died in the attack. Earlier, Saiful Islam Chowkidar, a chef at the bakery, was found to be among the six people the security forces killed in the early morning raid after believing he was part of the attack.
The security agencies had flip-flopped on his antecedents too. When it emerged that he was a chef at the bakery, security officials claimed that he may have died accidentally in the crossfire. But Monirul Islam, chief of the Counter Terror Branch, did a U-turn and said he was one of the attackers, and that at one point, when the attackers wanted to escape and came out firing, he was with them. Islam had also mentioned that two other suspects, who worked at the bakery, were undergoing treatment at the hospital. This statement came a week after the attack.
Curiously, the security agencies are still mum on the identity of one of the attackers they claimed to have captured alive after the siege ended.
The curious case of North South University
While the security officials say that the Dhaka attacks were carried out by local outfit Jamat Mujahideen Bangladesh, the Detective Branch has also detained two other suspects who were present in the restaurant at the time of the siege.
Hasnat Karim, a former professor at North South University, and Tahmid Hasib Khan, a University of Toronto student who landed in Dhaka a day before the attack, are being interrogated by the agencies, reports say.
In some of the videos from the night of siege at Holey Artisan Bakery, the two are seen mingling with the attackers.
Interestingly, Abir Rahman, a young bomber who was killed in the Eid prayer attack in Sholakia also has a North South link - he was a BBA student at the university.
Similarly, Nibras Islam, one of the attackers who was killed at the Holey Artisan Bakery, also went to the same university.
The privately-owned institution was in the news earlier when it fired some of its faculty members for their links with Hizbut Tahrir, another terrorist outfit, which was linked to the failed coup attempt in 2012.
In 2013, while the Shahbagh protests were still on, Rajib Haider, a blogger, was brutally hacked to death in Dhaka. The five people arrested in the case were all students of different departments at the North South University.
According to investigations, they were radicalised by one Jasim uddin Rahmani, a leader of Ansar al Islam, the terror outfit linked to Al Qaeda in South Asia. Rahmani, in his sermons, had reportedly called for the killing of atheist bloggers.
Why experts insist this wasn't an ISIS job
The attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery was claimed by ISIS, the terror group which is fast spreading its wings in many countries. ISIS also released pre-attack photos of the attackers.
The security apparatus in Dhaka has for long been saying that most of the attacks in Bangladesh are the handiwork of either the JMB or Ansar ul Islam, the two local terror groups which, after the Shahbagh protests, took it upon themselves to eliminate all those who openly wanted a secular Bangladesh.
It sees the Gulshan 2 attack in line with the tactics of the local groups, and denies the involvement of foreign entities like ISIS, which many analysts say could lead to more attacks.
After all, ISIS has been able to radicalise a lot of youth globally through the internet.
Meanwhile, ISIS has released another video, which features three Bangladeshis, who the group claims are in Raqqa in Syria. The group has warned of more attacks.
One of the men in the video, the reports say, is a singer, Tahmid Rahman, who disappeared in 2015.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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