A Bangladesh court Thursday upheld the death sentence for six Islamist militants convicted over a suicide bombing in 2005 of a lawyer’s office that killed eight people, a top prosecutor said.
Bangladesh’s judiciary is under pressure to fast track cases involving militants as the government faces mounting criticism to crackdown on Islamists over a series of recent deadly killings.
A bench of two high court judges rejected appeals from the six convicted over the 2005 bombing, claimed by local extremist group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
“The court upheld the death orders against the six JMB extremists as the charges against them were proved beyond any doubt,” deputy attorney general Sheikh A.K.M. Moniruzzaman told AFP.
Authorities have blamed the banned domestic group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, for the cafe attack
ISIS or not?
JMB has also been blamed for a siege this month by five gunmen on an upscale cafe in Dhaka that killed 20 mostly foreign hostages and two police officers.
In the past year, ISIS have made claims over the killings of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million.
And ISIS claimed responsibility for the cafe attack but the government has dismissed suggestions the group has a presence in Bangladesh.
The group posted gruesome images of the carnage before the military stormed the cafe.
Moniruzzaman said the six convicted militants had conspired and assisted in the bombing of the lawyer’s office just north of Dhaka, part of JMB’s then deadly campaign against the secular judiciary.
“Of the ten JMB extremists originally sentenced to death by the trial court in 2013, two were acquitted by the high court and two others were sentenced to life in prison,” he added.
The attack was one of a series of blasts the JMB carried out in 2005, then raising fears that the Muslim-majority nation would descend into Afghanistan-style Islamic militancy.
Four lawyers and four litigants died in the attack. The suicide bomber was also killed.
Authorities launched a crackdown on the JMB at the time, but it has regrouped in recent years under new leaders.
According to experts, it has been actively recruiting young and highly educated young men to its ranks.
Police have blamed the banned group for scores of gruesome murders of religious minorities, as well as of foreigners, since 2013.
One of nine suspected militants killed in a police raid in Bangladesh this week was a Bangladeshi-American who was a friend of one of the gunmen that attacked a cafe on July 1 killing 22 people, police said on Thursday.
The attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery, a cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter, was one of the most brazen militant assaults in the country’s history.
Most of the 22 people killed were foreigners and police have been scouring the country for accomplices of the five gunmen who were all killed when police ended the siege.
On Tuesday, police raided a building in a Dhaka suburb and killed nine militants, who police said were from the same domestic group as the cafe attackers, and who had been plotting their own similar attack.
Eight of the nine were identified from their fingerprints, which are taken when national identity cards are issued, and one turned out to be a wanted Bangladeshi-American, said Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman.
“Shazad Rouf, 24, was an American passport holder and had been missing for six months,” Rahman told Reuters.
Rouf’s father had filed a missing person report for him on Feb. 6, the spokesman said, adding that Rouf had been wanted by police on suspicion of plotting a subversive act.
Also wanted in the same case was Nibras Islam, one of Rouf’s friends, who had been among the cafe attackers, Rahman said.
Rouf was from a well-off family in Dhaka, Rahman said, but added that he had no information on his US connection.
A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment.
Police said another of the nine militants killed on Tuesday had been identified as the trainer of the cafe attackers.
The man had been a religious student who had gone missing a year ago, counter-terrorism police chief Monirul Islam told a news conference.
While authorities blame the violence on domestic militants, security experts say the scale and sophistication of the cafe attack suggested links to a trans-national network.
ISIS has warned that violence would continue worldwide.
(With AFP and Reuters)