Local militants had prepared for at least six months before carrying out the deadliest attack in the history of Bangladesh only to draw attention of international terror groups.
It was an evening of Holy Ramadan when they chose to execute their brutal plan.
Yes, we are talking about the gruesome attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in 2016 that killed 20 people, including 17 foreigners.
Two police officers also lost their lives. The bloodbath did not only leave behind a warzone-like scene, it also left the entire nation in a state of shock.
Law enforcement agencies claimed that the members of banned militant outfit Neo-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh or Neo-JMB were responsible for the attack.
After three years, the verdict of the sensational Holey Artisan Bakery attack case is scheduled to be delivered at a Dhaka court today.
On completion of the hearing on November 17, Judge Md Majibur Rahman of the Anti-Terrorism Special Tribunal in Dhaka set the date to deliver the verdict.
On July 1, 2016, five armed militants stormed into the upscale eatery in the diplomatic zone of Gulshan and held the diners hostage before brutally killing 22 of them – three Bangladeshis, seven Japanese, nine Italians and one Indian.
Two police officials were killed during the 12-hour standoff while trying to save the hostages. Later, five militants were killed in an army commando operation.
One of the defence lawyers, Md Delwar Hossain, said, "The prosecution lawyers failed to prove charges brought against our clients in the case, so they would be acquitted of the charges."
Besides, the public prosecutor of the tribunal, Md Golam Sharuar Khan Zakir, in his argument, sought maximum punishment to all the accused in the case, claiming that they had successfully proved their points.
Earlier, the deposition of prosecution witnesses was completed on October 27.
Total 113 out of 211 prosecution witnesses, including several eyewitnesses, testified before the court in the case.
The trial initiated on November 26, 2018 by framing charges against eight militants while the recording of statements of witnesses started on December 3 the same year.
After the incident, police filed a case under the Anti-Terrorism Act with the Gulshan police station over the incident.
Later, the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) submitted a chargesheet on July 23 last year against eight militants of the banned Neo-JMB.
The accused are Rashed alias Rash, one of the alleged planners; Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, alleged recruiter of the restaurant attackers; Sohel Mahfuz, reported supplier of grenades; Mizanur Rahman alias Boro Mizan and Hadisur Rahman
Sagor, suspected suppliers of arms; and Rakibul Islam, so-called religious trainer; Shariful Islam Khaled and Mamunur Rashid Ripon.
The CTTC unit in the chargesheet said Neo-JMB militants had planned the attack for six months and their intention was to create "unrest" in Bangladesh in a bid to turn this Muslim-majority country into a "terrorist state".
During the probe, the CTTC unit found the involvement of 21 militants in the café attack.
Of them, five attackers – Nibrash Islam, Mir Sabeh Mubashir, Rohan Imtiaz, Khairul Islam Payel and Shafiqul Islam Uzzal – were killed inside the Holey Artisan bakery during the commando operation that ended the siege.
Besides, eight others, including the mastermind of the attack Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, were killed later in different anti-militancy drives.
They are café attack coordinator Nurul Islam Marzan, a top operative of mainstream Neo-JMB and its financier Sarwar Jahan, retired army major and trainer Jahidul Islam, software engineer Basharuzzaman Chocolate, top JMB operative Abu Raihan
Tarik, banker and financier Tanvir Kaderi and grenade supplier Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan.
Why they chose Holey Artisan?
The members of Neo-JMB attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery with an aim to kill as many foreigners as possible.
Tamim Chowdhury alias Talha, the mastermind of the attack who was killed in Narayanganj during a police operation on August 27, 2016, and his aides visited the bakery multiple times and gathered all information about the place before conducting the attack as they wanted to ensure maximum harm and panic.
The militants picked up Holey Artisan as it was comparatively less-secure and foreigners used to frequent the place in groups.
The statement of Jahangir Alam alias Rajib Gandhi, another mastermind of the attack, says the attack was planned in February 2016 in a rented home at Saghata upazila in Gaibandha.
Rajib's six aides – Tamim Chowdhury, Major Zahid, Sarwar Jahan alias Abdur Rahman alias Manik, Tarek, Nurul Islam Marjan and Shariful Islam Khalid – helped him make the master plan of the attack.
Tamim Chowdhury coordinated the attack. Monirul Islam, additional commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police and also the chief of the CTTC unit, said, "The militants decided to attack Holey Artisan because it was easier for them to enter the bakery for its poor security."
"The bakery had a lake beside it. So, police could not attack the militants from that side. This was a well-planned attack and the bakery was the most convenient spot for them to conduct the attack."