Bangladesh's home minister has rejected so-called 'Islamic State' (IS) claims of responsibility for the attack on a Dhaka cafe which killed 20 people. He said that the killers had made no demands.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said three of the six gunmen killed were under 22 years of age and had been missing for six months. He added that it was not clear if one suspect who was hospitalized with serious injuries had been involved in the attack.
The government has insisted the attacks were carried out by Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a domestic terror group. But IS has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks inside the country, including the latest one.
Seven gunmen stormed the upmarket restaurant in the diplomatic zone late on Friday and killed their mostly non-Muslim hostages, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, one US and one Indian national.
A standoff of nearly 12 hours with security forces ended when up to 100 commandos stormed the building, killing six of the militants and capturing a seventh after attempts at negotiations failed. They recovered explosives and sharp weapons from the scene.
For the past 18 months Bangladesh has been beset by a series of brutal attacks by machete wielding terrorists, against individuals of varying backgrounds, including secularists, Buddhists and foreigners.
Critics say the government is in a state of denial. Taj Hashmi, a Bangladeshi who teaches security studies at the Austin Peay State University in the US, said there could be "no ambiguity" that the attack was the work of IS.
Mubashar Hasan, an expert on political Islam at Dhaka's Liberal Arts University, said the attacks were the latest in a long line of attacks stretching back to the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
"This is Bangladesh's 9/11," Hasan said. "Bangladesh has now entered into the global war on terror."
K.G. Suresh, a senior fellow at New Delhi's Vivekananda International Foundation, think-tank, noted that, despite being heavily armed, the terrorists didn’t kill people with their guns.
"By hacking people to death... they wanted to show the world that they can go to any extent for jihad," Suresh said. "Once they attack a restaurant popular with foreigners on a Friday night their message is clear who they want to go after. By sparing Muslims, they wanted to send out the message that they are only against Westerners."
Late on Sunday in Bangladesh, hundreds of men, women and children held a candlelit vigil near the Martyr's Monument to pay their respects to those who lost their
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has decreed the next two days a mourning period and is due to pay tribute to victims at a rally in the capital on Monday.
bk/jm (Reuters, AFP)