By Nazrul Islam;
Dhaka – Seven Islamist militants have been sentenced to death for their involvement in the deadly restaurant attacks in Dhaka that killed 20 civilians more than three years ago, officials said on Wednesday.
Judge Majibur Rahman of special anti-terrorism tribunal in Dhaka handed down the punishment to the members of a faction of the banned militant outfit, Jamaatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB), for the terrorist attack using firearms, murder and terror financing, said prosecutor Abu Abdullah.
The judge ordered the convicts to be hanged until death, he said adding that one defendant as allegations against him could not be proved. The death row convicts are Jahangir Hossain, Aslam Hossain, Hadisur Rahmam, Abdus Sabur Khan, Rakibul Hasan Regan, Sahridul Islam Khaled and Mamunur Rahman. Mizanur Rahman alias Baro Mizab was acquitted of the charges,
Nine Italians, seven Japanese, one India, a US and two Bangladeshi nationals were killed when Islamist militants equipped with firearms, grenades and knives carried out the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan diplomatic enclave of Dhaka.
Two police officers were also killed before the army commandos stormed into the cafe on the following morning to release the guests who were taken hostage by the militants. Five militants and a chef believed to be associates of the jihadists were shot down by the army to end the 11-hour crisis that surprised the whole nation.
The court in its verdict said it has no mercy for the defendants as the allegations against seven were proved beyond doubt. They must be “hanged by neck until they are dead,” reads the verdict.
The court also observed that the militants wanted to draw international terrorist outfit Islamic State through the attack. They wanted to show international community that radical Islamists are strong in Bangladesh, the prosecutor said referring to the verdict.
“It was a well-orchestrated plan to taint Bangladesh’s image,” he said.
Law minister Anisul Huq said that he was satisfied with the verdict. Bangladesh has proved that there is no room for terrorists in the country and such acts can be tired under the law, he added.
He also assured that the execution of the verdict will be implemented as quicly as possible completing the legal procedures.
Investigators found a total of 21 people involved in carrying out the attacks. But they pressed charges against eight as 13 others were killed in anti-militant crackdown launched in response to the restaurant attack.
The militants took five months to implement their plan and they targeted the foreigners in order to get attention of the international media and damage Bangladesh’s image.
All the eight defendants were produced before the court when the verdict was pronounced amid tight security, said Golam Sarwar Khan Zaki, another prosecution lawyer. He added that relatives of the some of the victims and representatives of the foreign missions were also present in the court.
The death-row convicts were not seen apparently unhappy with the punishment. Few of them were seen smiling when they were taken to the dock. One of them was seen attaired with a cap inscribed with Islamic monogram of his cap when they were taken out by the officers from the courtroom, creating s surprise as to how they manage a such cap under the police custody. The government launched an investigation into the incident as the officials said it was not supposed to happen.
The militants also shouted slogans that they had chanted “Allahu akbar” – (God is the greatest) during the assault when they were taken to the prison van after the court’s proceedings.
The Islamic State extremist group had claimed responsibility for the attack. But the Bangladeshi police said the home-grown JMB was behind it.