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Bangladesh says some attackers were wealthy and went to elite schools

Some of the men suspected of being behind Friday's deadly attack in the diplomatic zone of Bangladesh's capital, which left 20 hostages and two police officers dead, came from affluent families and attended prestigious schools.

by Tamara Khandaker
Jul 4 2016, 5:00pm

Una mujer rinde homenaje a quienes murieron en el Holey Artisan Bakery en Daca el 3 de julio de 2016. Imagen vía AP

Some of the men suspected of being behind a deadly attack in the diplomatic zone of Bangladesh's capital, which left 20 hostages and two police officers dead, came from affluent families and attended prestigious schools at home and abroad, reports say.

Late Friday, gunmen stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery, often frequented by foreigners, in the neighborhood of Gulshan in Dhaka, and killed 20 people overnight. The victims included Italian, Japanese, American, and Indian nationals.

The attack is the deadliest to date in a series of such attacks on liberals and religious minorities that have been carried out of the last several years in Bangladesh with increasing frequency.

And while the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack, the government has refused to acknowledge IS involvement, saying it was carried out by local groups backed by the ruling party's political opponents to create instability in the country, even though photos of five of the accused killers, grinning in front of an ISIS flag, were released by the group, along with a statement.

"Let the people of the crusader countries know that there is no safety for them as long as their aircraft are killing Muslims," said the statement from ISIS, according to Reuters.

SITE identified the five attackers as Abu Umayer, Abu Salam, Abu Rahiq, Abu Muslim, and Abu Muharib, while police, who released photos of the attackers' bodies, said their names were 'Akash', 'Bikash,' 'Don,' 'Badhon' and 'Ripon.'

But on Facebook, the alleged attackers have been identified in numerous posts by friends and former classmates as Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasheer, Andaleeb Ahmed and Raiyan Minhaj. Most of them went to elite schools in Dhaka and Malaysia, officials said.

"A majority of the boys who attacked the restaurant came from very good educational institutions," Bangladeshi Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu told India's NDTV. "Some went to sophisticated schools. Their families are relatively well-to-do people."

Related: Three US college students among 20 hostages killed in Bangladesh

According to friends' posts on social media, Islam, who had reportedly been missing since February, attended Monash University's campus in Malaysia, while two others, including Rohan Imtiaz, went the prestigious Scholastica School in Dhaka.

Imtiaz has been identified by BD News as the son of the former Dhaka City chapter leader of the Awami League, Bangladesh's governing party SM Imtiaz Khan Babul, who reported his son missing to police in January.

Mubasher had also been missing since February, his father Meer Hayet Kabir, an executive with a foreign company in Dhaka, told the New York Times.

Kabir, still reeling from the news, said he hadn't been able to bring himself to go to the police station and identify the body. He said other than the fact that he suddenly stopped playing guitar and explained his decision saying that 'music is not good,' there had been no signs that his son had been radicalized.

"How will we arrange a funeral for him in these circumstances?" he said. "Who will come?"

Meanwhile, five of the 13 people rescued Saturday by police are still in custody, being questioned, including a Canadian citizen of Bangladeshi origin and a British citizen who was born in Bangladesh.

According to an anonymous official quoted by the Daily Star, police are looking for links between several of those who were rescued and the attackers.

The Canadian had arrived in Dhaka the day before the attack and was inside the restaurant with two female friends who attended the same private university as some of the attackers. the Star reported.

"This prompted us to keep him on the suspicion list," the official said.

Another man in custody, who was trapped in the restaurant with his wife and kids, is a British citizen who returned to Bangladesh about a year and a half ago, having lived in the UK for about 20 years. The man was seen in a video that surfaced online, talking to one of the killers before being allowed to leave— one of the attackers had reportedly been in a student at the private university where the man has been teaching since his return.

A waiter from the restaurant described the attackers as "young, well-dressed, comfortable," speaking to a reporter for The Hindu.

Follow Tamara Khandaker on Twitter: @anima_tk