On Wednesday, Special Anti-Terrorism Tribunal Judge Mujibur Rahman in Dhaka sentenced to death seven alleged Islamist militants responsible for the 2016 terrorist attack in a cafe in an upscale neighbourhood in the Bangladeshi capital. Over 20 diners of multiple nationalities were killed at the Holey Artisan Bakery, the deadliest terrorist attack in Bangladesh.
Eight men were accused of planning and supplying weapons to the five attackers, all of whom were killed by Bangladeshi commandos who stormed the premises.
One accused, Mizanur Rahman, was acquitted because the allegations against him could not be proved. Among those who died were nine Italian, seven Japanese, five Bangladeshis and one Indian citizen. The victim from India was 18-year-old Tarishi Jain, a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
The seven Japanese were consultants working for a foreign aid organisation, while all the Italians worked in the private sector.
Among the five Bangladeshis who were killed, two were studying in the United States, two were policemen, and one was believed to be a marketing professional.
2016 Dhaka cafe attack: What happened at Holey Artisan Bakery?
At approximately 8.40 pm on July 1, 2016, five militants armed with assault rifles, grenades, and machetes stormed the bakery, situated on Road 79 in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone.
On July 2, the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star reported that the militants spared those who could recite the Quran, while the others were tortured and killed.
After two policemen died fighting the militants, Bangladeshi Para Commandos launched “Operation Thunderbolt” on the morning of July 2. After a stand-off that lasted for over 12 hours, the commandos stormed the bakery, rescuing 13 hostages and killing all five terrorists.
Hours after the attack, the Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility. However, Bangladesh disputed this claim, and held a banned local militant group, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) responsible.
Tamim Chowdhury alias Talha, the alleged mastermind of the attack, was killed in August 2017 in a police operation.
According to a report in The Dhaka Tribune, the militants chose this particular bakery because of its poor security, and because it was frequented by foreigners.
How did the trial progress?
After the attack, a case was filed with the Gulshan police station under Bangladesh’s Anti-Terrorism Act.
The trial began in December 2018, after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) accused 8 members of the JMB of planning and executing the attack. (A total of 21 individuals were named, including the five who were killed in the attack, and eight who were killed in other anti-militant operations at other times.)
According to The Daily Star, the chargesheet filed by the CTTC mentioned that the terrorists carried out the attack to destabilise the country, make investors and foreign consultants leave, and destroy the economy.
“The suspects thought if they could kill a large number of foreigners, they would be under local and international spotlight. At the same time, they would be able to draw the attention of global terrorist groups, said the charge sheet,” the report quoted the chargesheet as saying.
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