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2 Dhaka attackers followed Indian preacher Zakir Naik

PTI/AP
Published : Jul 5, 2016, 4:14 am IST
Updated : Jul 5, 2016, 4:14 am IST

Some of 13 rescued hostages being questioned

Inconsolable family members and parents of Tarishi Jain who was killed in the Dhaka terror attack. (Photo: AP)
 Inconsolable family members and parents of Tarishi Jain who was killed in the Dhaka terror attack. (Photo: AP)

Some of 13 rescued hostages being questioned

Two of the five Bangladeshi militants who hacked to death 20 people at a restaurant in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone used to follow three controversial Islamists, including Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

Militant Rohan Imtiaz, son of an Awami League leader, quoted Peace TV’s controversial preacher Naik on Facebook last year “urging all Muslims to be terrorists”, the Daily Star, a Bangladeshi newspaper, reported. Naik, a popular but controversial Islamic orator and founder of Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, is banned in the UK and Canada for hate speeches against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia. He is wildly popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV though his preaching often demeans other religions and even other Muslim sects, the report said.

Another Dhaka attacker, Nibras Islam, 22, used to follow two alleged suspected recruiters of Islamic State — Anjem Choudary and Shami Witness — on Twitter in 2014. Shami Witness is the Twitter account of 24-year-old Mehdi Biswas, who is also facing trial in India for running propaganda for the Islamic State. He was arrested in December 2014 following an investigation of his Twitter account which was last active in August 2014.

Biswas was charged with operating the “single most influential pro-ISIS Twitter account”. Choudary, 49, a Pakistan-origin British citizen, is now facing trial in England for breaking the British anti-terrorism law. His Twitter account became inactive from August 2015 after terror charges were brought against him.

Choudary allegedly told his supporters to travel to territory controlled by the “barbaric regime” in Syria and Iraq. “This means at least in the case of Nibras and Rohan, they did not become radicalised overnight. They have been consuming radical material for one to two years before finally disappearing in February-March and reappearing as ‘IS killers’ Friday night at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan,” the paper said.

From their pictures posted by the ISIS media and recirculated by the SITE Intelligence Group, it can be assumed that these young men received arms training after their disappearance, specifically to carry out the mission on June 1.

“Their attire, with IS logo in the backdrop, the automatic rifles held in their hands, reveal they underwent organised training which is far from anything amateurish. That the killers released some of the hostages 15 minutes before the Army-led operation on Saturday morning also showed the depth of their brains being washed — that they were ready to die,” the paper added.

Meanwhile, some of the hostages rescued from the weekend terrorist attack in Dhaka were being questioned Monday by investigators searching for clues about the possible masterminds of the gruesome attack that left 28 dead, including many foreigners. The authorities were still holding five of the 13 rescued hostages, according to officials.

The chief of the Bangladesh police, IGP A.K.M. Shahidul Haque, said the authorities would be interrogating two men, including a suspected militant, who were detained during Saturday’s operation. He would not say whether either had been among those counted as hostages. “One of them is in hospital, the other is in custody,” he said. “They (the attackers) may have had some contact with international terrorist groups,” he said.

A second official said on condition of anonymity that the five former hostages still being held included a Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi origin and a Bangladesh-born British citizen. The official said authorities were looking into the backgrounds of the five people and questioning their family and friends.

It was not clear if all five were suspects, or if they were being held and questioned simply because authorities thought they might offer useful information in tracing the origins of the attack. The official confirmed investigators were also speaking with a third man, described by local media as a Bangladeshi who was trapped inside the restaurant along with his wife and two children. The man, a teacher at a private university in Dhaka, had returned to Bangladesh recently after living nearly 20 years in Britain.

Some photographs and several crude videos taken from an apartment near the Holey Artisan Bakery show the man talking to someone while attackers allowed him to leave before paramilitary forces launched the rescue operation on Saturday. The man’s friends and police also said the one of the attackers was a student in the same department at the university where the man teaches.

The five Indian states that border Bangladesh were on high alert Monday, with Indian police checking vehicles crossing the shared 4,000-km border, according to the head of India’s paramilitary BSF.

Location: Bangladesh, Dhaka