DHAKA, Aug 1, (Agencies): The bodies of five Islamists behind a deadly attack on a Bangladesh cafe have still not been claimed a month later, police said Monday, as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against extremism. Relatives of the men have spoken of their shock and horror at learning of their involvement in the siege in Dhaka’s Gulshan neighbourhood, in which 20 hostages were killed — many of them hacked to death.
On Monday tens of thousands of university and college students across the country stood in silence and formed human chains in front of their schools. “No terrorism, we want peace. We want life without fear,” read one banner at a women’s college in Dhaka. Authorities have launched a nationwide campaign to shame those behind the attacks.
Clerics at the mainly Muslim country’s more than 300,000 mosques have been asked to give sermons on why Islam forbids killing. Police said the bodies of nine other men allegedly from the same group who were shot when police launched a raid on a militant hideout on July 26 are also still being stored at a state hospital. “No relatives came to us or officially applied for the bodies of the 14 extremists,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told AFP. Sohel Mahmud, a forensic doctor at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said several families had come to identify the bodies. “But no one wanted to take them home for burial,” he said.
Police gave no official reason, but officers speaking on condition of anonymity said the parents of the extremists were overwhelmed with guilt. Six of the young men were from well-off Dhaka families, among them 18-year-old Rohan Imtiaz. His father Imtiaz Khan Babul told AFP he was “stunned and speechless” to hear of his only son’s involvement in the carnage and apologised to the nation.
Abdus Salam said his brother Mohammad Abdullah, one of the nine killed in the shootout with police, had betrayed the family and his country. “That’s why we don’t want to take his body,” he told reporters last week. The students from hundreds of colleges and universities in Dhaka and other cities took part in the protest as part of a campaign to create awareness about the rise of Islamic extremism in the country. Protesters carried banners that read “Bangladesh stands against terrorism” and “We want peace; no place for terrorism.”
The organizers said they particularly wanted students to lead Monday’s protests because the suspects in last month’s attacks were mostly students and young men. “We stand against any sort of extreme form of ideology. We denounce terrorism,” said Tanvir Shakil Joy, one of the organizers.
“I feel encouraged to see that so many students, both male and female, have joined the protest today.” Joy, a former ruling party lawmaker, said the students gathered at about 50 locations in Dhaka, and similar protests were held in all district headquarters and major cities. A signature campaign against extremism was also launched at all educational institutions, he said by telephone. Suspected Islamist militants killed 20 people, including 17 foreigners, in an attack on a popular restaurant in Dhaka a month ago.
That was followed by an attack on an Eid congregation in central Bangladesh that left three people dead. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Bangladesh authorities blamed the banned group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh.
In a police raid last week, nine other suspected militants, mostly young men, were killed in Dhaka. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to fight extremism and urged citizens to build awareness about its dangers. Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people, is a parliamentary democracy based on British common law. Many local Islamist groups want to introduce Islamic Shariah law