Bangladesh: Briton formally arrested over Dhaka cafe attack


Dhaka: Bangladeshi police have formally arrested a British national allegedly involved in the deadly Islamist attack on a Dhaka cafe that killed 22 people last month, officials said Saturday.

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The police had initially detained Hasnat Karim, a 47-year-old Briton, along with Tahmid Khan, a University of Toronto student, in connection with the deadly attack which was later claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.

A court on Saturday ordered Karim on an eight-day fresh remand after police showed that he was the "first person" to be formally arrested over the Gulshan terror attack. "We have found some information regarding his involvement in that incident," Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Masudur Rahman told media.

Karim and Khan were both present inside the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe when the militants raided the premises on July 1 and killed 22 people. But none of them were seen in public after the attack when the commandos stormed into the restaurant.

Last week, both of them were arrested under Section 54 of CrPC (criminal procedure) that allows police to detain someone on suspicion of any crime. But they were not directly linked to the attack. However, their families insisted that there is no evidence to link Karim and Khan to the attackers. The families claimed that they were innocent bystanders and were being unnecessarily held by the security services.

Karim's lawyer also maintained that he was innocent. "We've said that he was a victim of circumstances. He was used as a body shield and forced to walk with the attackers at gunpoint," Golam Mostafa said.

Karim's father Rezaul Karim said, "My son was a hero. He saved the life of at least eight people during the siege. I know him. He is innocent." His relatives said that Karim along with his wife and two children went to the cafe to celebrate the 13th birthday of their daughter.

But the local media reported that Khan was seen holding a firearm while Hasnat Karim was seen strolling with the attackers on the roof. According to reports, Karim was a lecturer at the North-South University in Dhaka. Two of the five terrorists, who were gunned down at the end of the siege had studied in the same university.

On the other hand, Tahmid Khan, a Bangladeshi citizen, returned to his homeland taking a leave from University of Toronto.

Earlier this week, the police offered a reward of up to US$25,000 (S$33,600) for information about a Canadian citizen, Tamim Chowdhury, who is believed to be the mastermind of the Dhaka attack.

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