NEW DELHI, Oct 18, (RTRS): Three Bangladeshi men have been identified as the financiers of the July 1 attack in which a group of assailants tortured and killed 20 hostages at a restaurant in Dhaka, a counterterrorism official said Tuesday.
The three men provided part of the $101,606 sum used to carry out the attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, which ended hours later with police killing all five of the attackers and finding 20 hostages dead, including 17 foreigners.
The financiers included a pediatrician who fled with his family to Syria to join the Islamic State, according to the country’s police counterterrorism chief, Monirul Islam. He identified the other two as a retired army major who donated his pension and savings and a man who donated proceeds from a Dhaka apartment sale.
Both were killed in police raids. Islam did not elaborate on how the money was used. He said the three belonged to the banned militant group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB. The IS claimed the responsibility for the July 1 attack, but Bangladesh’s government insists the JMB was behind it.
Bangladesh has been under intense international pressure to crack down on Islamist militancy, which also has involved individual attacks targeting writers, religious minorities and others deemed enemies of Islam. Authorities are now investigating whether the JMB was receiving funding from abroad, Islam said.
Police believe that New JMB, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, was involved in organising the cafe attack. Police have killed more than three dozen suspected militants in shootouts since the cafe attack, including its presumed mastermind, Bangladesh- born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.
A Bangladeshi Islamist party allied to the opposition has elected a new chief untainted by war crime allegations, seeking to turn the page after the execution of several of its top leaders. Jamaat-e-Islami said in a statement late Monday it had sworn in former school teacher Maqbul Ahmed as its leader after a secret ballot of party members.
Ahmed takes over from Motiur Rahman Nizami, who was hanged in May after a controversial tribunal convicted him of murder during the country’s 1971 war of independence with Pakistan. Four other top leaders, including the party’s secretary general, its two joint secretaries and its main financier, have been executed since 2013 following trials that rights groups have condemned as unfair. They were tried by the same war crimes tribunal set up by the secular government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, which said Jamaat leaders had to be prosecuted to heal the wounds of the war. Sources close to Jamaat said Ahmed, believed to be in his early seventies, had been chosen from a panel of three senior party officials who had not been tainted by war crimes.
In his debut speech he paid tribute to Hasina’s father, who led the war of independence against Pakistan, in a sign the party is looking to break from its past policies. “He is an experienced leader and a very good organiser,” said Abul Asad, the editor of the pro-Jamaat Bengali daily Sangram.
“He has said he wants to forget the pains and sorrows of the past and wants to look forward.” Jamaat, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, was barred from contesting the 2014 general election, effectively disenfranchising millions of its supporters.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party — allied to Jamaat — subsequently boycotted the polls, which became a one-horse race held against a backdrop of violent protests. Many observers believe the lack of genuine democracy in the country has contributed to a recent upsurge in Islamist violence, including a deadly siege at an upmarket Dhaka cafe in July.
Jamaat opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, but denies its leaders were involved in genocide, murders and rapes during the nine-month long conflict.
The conviction and execution of Jamaat officials plunged Bangladesh into one of its worst crises in 2013, when tens of thousands of Islamist activists clashed with police in protests that left some 500 people dead. In the same year the government launched a nationwide crackdown on Jamaat activists in which tens of thousands of Islamists were either detained or charged over the protests.