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Bangladeshi Police Kill Alleged 'Mastermind' Of Cafe Attack That Left 22 Dead

Bangladeshis gather near the scene of the raid Saturday in Narayanganj, on the outskirts of Dhaka.
Bangladeshis gather near the scene of the raid Saturday in Narayanganj, on the outskirts of Dhaka.

Bangladeshi police say they have killed the suspected "mastermind" of an armed attack on a café in the capital last month that left at least 22 people dead.

They say two other suspected militants were killed in the standoff. As top counterterrorism official Monirul Islam told The Associated Press, "police sharpshooters raided a two-story house in Narayanganj district near the capital, Dhaka, after receiving a tip that Tamim Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian, and others were hiding there."

As we reported last month, gunmen stormed into the Holey Artisan Bakery café on a busy Friday night and took a group hostage, including foreigners. An hours-long standoff followed, ultimately resulting in the deaths of 2 police officers and 20 civilians. Six gunmen were also killed.

Bangladesh has seen a recent wave of attacks targeting individuals, particularly secular writers and religious minorities. But as Syed Zain al-Mahmood of The Wall Street Journaltold Weekend Edition Saturday, this attack was particularly shocking because it "was something that's new to Bangladesh – an armed group storming a very popular café and taking hostages."

The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, though Bangladesh's government has repeatedly denied that the organization has a presence in the country.

Now, Bangladeshi authorities say Chowdhury is "a leader of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, a new branch of the domestic terrorism outfit that produced the café attackers and is affiliated with the Islamic State," as The Washington Post reported.

"The chapter of Tamim has ended here," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters, according to the AP. Khan said he "was one of the main suppliers of funds and arms for several recent attacks." The wire service reports that police believe he returned to the country in 2013 and was coming from Abu Dhabi.

And as the Post reports, "Chowdhury's death provides a key window in a growing threat for Bangladesh — affluent members of the diaspora who were radicalized overseas returning home to Bangladesh to wage jihad in their home country."

Animesh Roul, executive director of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict in New Delhi, tells the newspaper that "Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable because of to its large diaspora in such places as the United Kingdom and Canada."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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