Three of the six Holey Artisan Bakery attackers in Dhaka had gone missing at different intervals since January before they reappeared on Saturday. They were mostly students hailing from well-to-do families.
On Saturday, though the IS claimed responsibility, inspector- general of police AKM Shahidul Hoque told the media on Sunday that five attackers were locals who had been on the police radar as members of the Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Friends and acquaintances, still reeling under the bloody events, were alarmed to identify the attackers as one of their own.
Dhaka resident Mahamudur Rahman had posted details of Mubasheer, who went missing in February, appealing people to help find him before its ‘too late’. A class XI student, Mubasheer went missing on February 29 and was last seen at 3 pm at Agora (Gulshan), the same area where the bakery is located.
On Saturday, he once again posted his previous link identifying Mubasheer and wrote: “I am just astonished! 1st March, 2016, I posted his photo on this Facebook Page because he was missing from his campus. But after ISIS published those photo of ?#?DhakaAttack attackers, I was thundered! Cause this was the same guy! He is Meer Saameh Mubasheer.”
Nibras Islam, 23 years old, went missing on February 3, according to his Facebook account, now deactivated. Friends identified him as a student who went to Turkish Hope School, North South University, a top private university in Dhaka and later to the Malaysia campus of Monash University.
His Twitter account, still active, has only eight tweets that reveal a young boy going through the pains of heartbreak. “You don’t need me anymore. Be happy with him. Everyone is better then me. You know where to find me,” he tweeted in October 2014.
A few days later, he followed the pro-IS account of Shami Witness—the Indian behind the highly influential propaganda handle of the jihadi group and Anjem Chaudhary, the radical British preacher.
The third attacker, Rohan Ibne Imtiaz, was identified as the son of a member of the ruling Awami League, SM Imtiaz Khan Babul, a leader of the party’s Dhaka city chapter and Bangladesh Olympic Association’s deputy secretary general.
Rohan, reported to be a student of Scholistica, a private English immersion school in Dhaka, offering preschool to A-level courses, had gone missing since January 3. Only on June 21, his father posted on Facebook, “Baba, where are you? Please come back.”
The common thread through the profiles of these three attackers reveal that they were trained and indoctrinated for the attack when they went missing. The calmness with which the attackers, who did not have any previous combat experience, held more than a dozen hostages for over 10 hours shows they were prepared for the long haul.
Accounts of survivors stated that the attackers took photos of the bloodbath and used wireless in the café to upload these images. IS-related news channel, Amaq, released these photos and information of the hostage situation in real time. “This attack definitely had some involvement by the core IS leadership,” said Tufail Ahmed, scholar and observer on jihadist movements in South Asia. He added that there was also a high possibility of the attackers being trained abroad as the local network of JMB is disseminated and was unlikely of launching an attack with sophisticated tactics.