By Ruma Paul
DHAKA (Reuters) – 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 who 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 U.S. connection.
A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment.
Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the cafe attack but the government has dismissed suggestions the group has a presence in Bangladesh.
Instead, authorities have blamed the banned domestic group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, for the cafe attack.
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.
In the past year, al Qaeda and Islamic State have made competing claims over the killings of liberals and religious minorities in the mostly Muslim nation of 160 million.
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.
Islamic State has warned that violence would continue until Islamic law was established worldwide.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel)