July 2016 Dhaka attack

Coordinates: 23°48′09″N 90°25′00″E / 23.802512°N 90.416690°E / 23.802512; 90.416690

1–2 July 2016 Dhaka attack
Part of Terrorism in Bangladesh

Location of the attack within Dhaka
Location Holey Artisan Bakery
Road No 79, House 5, Gulshan 2
Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
Date 1–2 July 2016
21:20 – 08:30 (BST, UTC+06:00)
Target Mainly non-Muslim foreigners[1][2][3][4]
Attack type
Mass shooting, bombing, hostage-taking
Weapons Firearms (5 pistols and 2 AK-22 rifles),[5] IEDs, sword[6]
Deaths 29 (22 civilians, 5 attackers, 2 police officers)[7][8][9][10]
Non-fatal injuries
Victims 20–60 hostages[12][13][14]
Perpetrators Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (disputed)
Number of participants
Defenders 1st Para-commando Battalion
Bangladesh Army
Bangladesh Navy SWADS Commondo
Bangladesh Air Force
Border Guards Bangladesh
Bangladesh Police
Rapid Action Battalion

On the night of 1 July 2016, at 21:20 local time,[16] five militants took hostages and opened fire on the Holey Artisan Bakery[8] in Gulshan Thana—an affluent area with many embassies in Dhaka, Bangladesh.[13][14] The assailants entered the bakery with crude bombs, machetes, pistols, and took several dozen hostages (foreigners and locals). In the immediate response, while Dhaka Metropolitan Police tried to regain control of the bakery, two police officers were shot dead by the assailants.[13]

29 people were killed, including 20 hostages (18 foreigners and 2 locals), 2 police officers, 5 gunmen, and 2 bakery staff.[8][9][10][17][18] As the police were unsuccessful in breaching the bakery and securing the hostages, they set up a perimeter along with the Rapid Action Battalion and Border Guards Bangladesh. Very early on 2 July (around 03:00), it was decided that the Bangladesh Armed Forces would launch a counter assault named Operation Thunderbolt.[7] The assault was led by the 1st Para-commando Battalion, an elite force in the Bangladesh Army, and began their raid at 07:40.[19] According to Bangladesh's Inspector General of Police, all[9] of the attackers were Bangladeshi citizens.[20] Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the incident and released photographs of the gunmen, but the home minister of Bangladesh, Asaduzzaman Khan, stated that the perpetrators belonged to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and were not affiliated with ISIL.

The incident was the worst terrorist attack in Bangladesh's history.[21] The local media described it as 7/16.[22]


Bangladesh, having a population of about 170 million, is a developing country with a GDP per capita income of $1,284 per year.[23] The constitution of the country declares secularism as one of the four fundamental principles of the country but also recognizes Islam as the state religion. Around 89% of Bangladeshis are Muslims, while the rest being Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and others.[24]

The militant Islamic organization Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen was founded in 1998 and outlawed in 2005 when it committed a series of bombings, but later took up activities again. Bangladesh government later tried and hanged Shaykh Abdur Rahman and Siddiqur Rahman, two leaders of the organization.[25]

Some attacks came from another Islamic terrorist group outlawed in 2005 named Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, including the 2004 Dhaka grenade attack[26] and 2001 Ramna Batamul bombings.[27] Mufti Hannan, the leader of the terrorist group was sentenced to death on 23 December 2008.[26]

Since 2013, Muslim-majority Bangladesh has experienced an increase in Islamist attacks on religious minorities, secularist and atheist writers and bloggers, LGBT rights activists and liberal-minded Muslims.[28][29][30] Since September 2015, there have been over 30 such attacks, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for 21 of them.[31] Ansarullah Bangla Team, another terrorist group outlawed on 25 May 2015, also claimed responsibility for some of them.

In November 2015, the ISIL magazine Dabiq published an article calling for the "revival of jihad in Bengal".[32]

Gulshan is a well off, upscale residential neighborhood of Dhaka and is home to many foreign embassies.[14]

Attack and hostage

Gulshan 2. Bangladeshi joint forces restricted the movement in area at the time of Operation Thunderbolt during the hostage crisis at the area's Holey Artisan Bakery. Police had earlier beefed up security around the Dhaka Westin based on intelligence reports of a forthcoming attack.[33]

The attack started at about 21:20 local time.[34] Five attackers entered the restaurant armed with bombs and guns, and one attacker also had a sword. They opened fire indiscriminately and detonated several of the bombs. Several patrons dove under their tables, while panicked staff members ran onto the stairs. An Argentinian waiter named Diego Rossini bolted upstairs, while several restaurant employees followed him. They then jumped onto the rooftops of nearby buildings.[35][36]

Staff on the second floor ran and hid inside a restroom. A total of 8 staff members were hiding inside the restroom. The restroom was warm and cramped, as it was storing yeast and flour. The attackers then went upstairs and walked in front of the door, shouting "Bengali people, come out," "If you're Muslims, come out." Because there was no answer, the gunmen thought that there was no one inside the restroom, and locked the restroom's door. The staff members inside the restroom began to text their relatives, stating that they were inside the restroom and pleaded for help. The attackers then took many hostages, almost all foreigners. Reports indicate that the attackers were "unfailingly polite and solicitous" with the restaurant staff and other Bangladeshis. They took the staff into their confidence, complaining that foreigners, with their skimpy clothes and taste for alcohol, were impeding the spread of Islam. "Their lifestyle is encouraging local people to do the same thing," a militant said.[37][38]

Alerted by the gunfire, police detective Rabiul Karim and officer-in-charge Salauddin Khan started to investigate. Other police officers responded, arriving at the restaurant. The attackers then engaged in a shootout with the police. Police cordoned off the area around the restaurant and planned a rescue raid. The attackers however threw grenades and fired, killing officers Karim and Khan.[13]

The attackers then spotted one member of staff, named Miraj, who hid in the corner. One of the gunman told Miraj: "Everyone else ran away but you couldn't make it, that means God wants you to die." The gunman then strapped him to a chair with explosives, creating their human shield. The gunmen then separated the Muslims from the non-Muslims. The Muslims were given food and water, while the non-Muslims, were not. On the early morning of 2 July, the attackers began releasing hostages. A group of women wearing hijabs were released by the attackers; they offered a young Bangladeshi man, Faraaz Hossain, the opportunity to leave as well. However, Hossain refused their offer and refused to leave his friends, who were prohibited from leaving by the gunmen.[35][39][40]

Pictures allegedly taken from inside the restaurant were circulated on Twitter by pro-ISIL accounts and show several bodies and pools of blood on the floor.[13] The Daily Kaler Kantho reported that the militant group Ansar al-Islam announced the upcoming attack via a tweet almost 10 hours before the actual attack took place.[41]

Rescue operation

The rescue operation was ordered by the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and was named Operation Thunderbolt. The planning of the Operation was finalized at a meeting between the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Armed forces chiefs and top officials of different law enforcement agencies. The operation was led by 1st Para-commando Battalion of Bangladesh Army.[1] Members of Bangladesh Army, Navy, Air Force, Border Guards, Police, Rapid Action Battalion, SWAT and joint forces started the rescue operation at 07:40 local time.[42] Hundred Army commandos stormed into the bakery with nine APC, smashing through the wall.[43] Within 12 to 13 minutes they took control over the area.[43] The rescue operation lasted around 50 minutes. Bangladesh Army chief General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq and Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Mohammad Nizamuddin Ahmed were present in the area during the raid.[44]

13 hostages were rescued. Five[8] of the attackers were killed in a gunfight with the commandos, while the sixth[8] was captured alive.[45] During the operation one of the bakeries chefs was mistakenly identified as an attacker and was shot and killed by commandos.[8] Police later identified the man as a worker in the bakery.[8][46]

Two of the hostages, Tahmid Hasib Khan and Hasnat Karim, were taken by police for questioning, and subsequently vanished amidst confusion about whether they had been released or not.[47][48]


Twenty-two civilians, five gunmen, and two police officers were confirmed killed, while 50 others, mostly police personnel, were injured.[8][9][10][11][49] The two dead police officers included Rabiul Islam, Assistant Commissioner of Detective Branch of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, and Salahuddin Ahmed, officer-in-charge of the nearby Banani police station.[50][51][52] Nine Italian citizens were among the victims.[13] The Bangladesh Army initially announced that all 20 hostages killed in the attack were foreigners, and that they were "killed brutally with sharp weapons" by the perpetrators.[49] Those who could recite a verse from the Quran from memory were spared in an effort to only kill non-Muslims.[2][3][4] Later a chef of the bakery was identified among the dead bodies.[8][9] An injured staff of the bakery died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on 8 July 2016.[10]

Among the dead were seven Japanese citizens – five men and two women – who were associated with the Japan International Cooperation Agency. One of the women was pregnant at the time.[53] Tarishi Jain, a 19-year-old female student of the University of California, Berkeley, of Indian nationality, was also killed.[54]

Deaths by nationality
Country Number
Italy Italy 9
Japan Japan 7
Bangladesh Bangladesh 6
India India 1
United States United States 1
Total 24[8][10][55]

The dead included:[8][9][10][56][57]

  • Cristian Rossi (Italian)
  • Marco Tondat (Italian)
  • Nadia Benedetti (Italian)
  • Adele Puglisi (Italian)
  • Simona Monti (Italian)
  • Claudia Maria D'Antona (Italian)
  • Vincenzo D'Allestro (Italian)
  • Maria Rivoli (Italian)
  • Claudio Cappelli (Italian)
  • Hideki Hashimoto (Japanese)
  • Nobuhiro Kurosaki (Japanese)
  • Koyo Ogasawara (Japanese)
  • Makoto Okamura (Japanese)
  • Yuko Sakai (Japanese)
  • Rui Shimodaira (下平瑠衣 Shimodaira Rui;[58] Japanese)
  • Hiroshi Tanaka (Japanese)
  • Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain (Bangladeshi)
  • Ishrat Akhond (Bangladeshi)
  • Rabiul Karim (Bangladeshi)
  • Salauddin Khan (Bangladeshi)
  • Saiful Islam Chowkidar (Bangladeshi)
  • Zakir Hossain Shaon (Bangladeshi)
  • Abinta Kabir (American)
  • Tarishi Jain (Indian)

Relatives of the seven Japanese victims in the attack were flown to Bangladesh to view and identify the bodies, accompanied by Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seiji Kihara, Foreign Ministry and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. A ceremony for the repatriation of the bodies were held at a stadium in Dhaka, which was attended by the Japan's Ambassador to Bangladesh, Masato Watanabe. The bodies of the seven Japanese victims were flown to Tokyo on 5 July. The plane took off from Shahjalal International Airport at 8:40 pm local Bangladesh time.[59]

The five attackers who died during rescue operation by military and joint forces are:[9]

  • Nibras Islam
  • Rohan Imtiaz
  • Meer Saameh Mubasheer
  • Khairul Islam
  • Shafiqul Islam

Among the injured were 25 police personnel.[60] Among them were several higher-ranking officers of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police including an Additional Commissioner, two Additional Deputy Commissioners, the Officer-in-charge of the Gulshan police station and an Inspector.[61]

The Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Mario Giro had attended a meeting in Bangladesh and visited the attack site. He then took the bodies of 9 Italian victims and carried them to their homeland in Italy. The plane carrying the bodies landed on 5 July at Ciampino Military Airbase south of Rome, Italy. Autopsy shows that all nine Italians were tortured in the attack. Several of them were slashed with knives and several of them were mutilated. Authorities confirmed that the nine Italian victims suffered "slow and agonizing death".[62][63][64]

Survivors recalled that the attackers had no mercy to the foreigners. One of the survivors stated that an Indian woman, identified as Tarishi Jain, who had been badly injured was moaning in agony but a perpetrator took a sword to her and killed her without mercy.[65]


An initial report from Amaq News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, said the group claimed it had killed 24 people and wounded 40 others.[66] A second report, issued directly by ISIL a few hours later, said the group had killed "22 crusaders" and was accompanied by photos of the attackers, standing in front of ISIL banners.[67][68]

According to The New York Times, citing Bangladesh police, the attackers were named Akash, Badhon, Bikash, Don, and Ripon. ISIL referred to the five men by their kunya which were Abu Omar al-Bengali, Abu Salmah al-Bengali, Abu Rahim al-Bengali, Abu Muslim al-Bengali and Abu Muharib al-Bengali. According to The New York Times, pictures of the bodies of the five men, released by Bangladeshi police, matched five photographs of the men released by ISIL.[69]

However, the home minister of Bangladesh, Asaduzzaman Khan, stated that the perpetrators belonged to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and were not affiliated with ISIL. They were well-educated and mostly from rich families.[70][71] Bangladeshi politicians also blamed opposition groups, like those within the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, of plotting to destabilize the country by supporting Islamic extremists like the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. The opposition denied such claims.[72][73] Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's political adviser Hossain Toufique Imam said that Pakistani intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is suspected to have links with the attack.[74] He also added that Bangladesh authorities who monitored social media saw several messages on Twitter on Friday (1 July 2016) saying there would be an attack; however, police believed that the attack would target embassies or major hotels and restaurants instead.[9]

The attackers, all in their late teens or early 20s, were identified as wealthy men from Bangladesh's elite, having attended top private schools and universities in Bangladesh and abroad.[75][76] It was revealed that three of the attackers came from a privileged background, educated with western curricula. Police named the five gunmen who attacked the restaurant as Nibras Islam, Rohan Imtiaz, Meer Saameh Mubasheer, Khairul Islam and Shafiqul Islam.[9] One of them Nibras Islam was known as a "fun-loving, in and out of love, and keen on sport". He was identified by one of his former classmates in the private North South University[77] that requires almost all students to pay high tuition fees. He attended Monash University in Malaysia and returned because "he didn't like it in Monash". Nibras' father was a businessman with two houses in Dhaka, and one of his uncles was a Deputy Secretary to the Bangladesh Government. It was revealed that Nibras was following a Twitter account belonged to an Islamic State propagandist named Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who was arrested in Bangalore in 2015.[77]

Two gunmen were identified as Meer Sameh Mubashir and Rohan Imtiaz. Both went to Scholastica School which follows Cambridge International Examinations curriculum. Local newspapers reported that both of them had gone missing long before the attack.[76] Rohan Imtiaz has been identified as the son of a politician in Bangladesh's ruling party Awami League.[78] Police then identified another gunman, named as Shafiqul Islam Ujjal from Koiyagarhi village, Bogra District. He enrolled at Government Azizul Haque College in Bogra for graduation after passing higher secondary examinations. He had left the college later and took up a teaching job at a kindergarten school in Shajahan Market area in Dhaka.[79]

On 6 July 2016, a video was released by IS from Syria through SITE intelligence website, where three Bengali speakers warned the Bangladeshi Government saying "What you witnessed in Bangladesh...was a glimpse. This will repeat, repeat and repeat until you lose and we win and the sharia is established throughout the world. The jihad that is waged today is a jihad under the shade of the Caliphate."[80][81]

Suspects and arrests

On 16 July 2016, Police arrested three people for renting out a flat to the attackers in Bashundhara Residential Area. One of the arrests, Gias Uddin Ahsan was the acting pro-Vice-chancellor of North South University. The other two were his nephew Alam Chowdhury and the manager of the building Mahbubur Rahman Tuhin. Police found sand-filled cartons, which police suspect to be used to carry grenades thrown during the attack and used clothes in the flat. Police also suspect that the attackers and their associates stayed in the flat during Ramadan, and the attack plan was drafted there.[82][83]

On 26 July 2016, police raided an apartment in Kallyanpur, killing nine and arresting two, all of whom are believed to be part of the same group that carried out the Holey Artisan Bakery attack, and who were planning another attack.[84] It is reported that the police were directly assisted by vigilantes organized as a "citizen's committee" by the local MP for Dhaka-14, Aslamul Haque. Participants included members of the Awami League, Jubo League and Chhatra League.[85]

On 27 August 2016, Tamim Chowdhury, the supposed mastermind of the attack, was killed in a raid on an IS safehouse in Dhaka by Bangladeshi forces.[86] On 2 September his deputy Murad was killed in another raid in Dhaka's Rupnagar area.[87]



Religious scholar Maulana Fariduddin Masoud issued a fatwa condemning the killing of innocent people as contrary to the law and the spirit of Islam. A subsequent attempt on the life of the imam as he was about to conduct mass prayers for Eid al-Fitr at Kishoreganj resulted in a gun battle with police in which several people were killed, others were injured, and one attacker was captured alive. The attackers are believed to be part of the same group that carried out the café massacre.[88]



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