The Canadian Press
NEW DELHI — Two men who had not been heard from since last month’s restaurant attack in Bangladesh were arrested Thursday on allegations they were involved in the deadly siege carried out by radical Islamists.
University of Toronto student Tahmid Hasib Khan and British national Hasnat Karim were arrested in different areas of the capital, Dhaka, and police were seeking court permission to question them for 10 days, said Masudur Rahman, a Dhaka police spokesman.
Five armed gunmen attacked the Holey Artisan Bakery restaurant on the night of July 1, killing 20 people and holding others inside hostage. Security forces stormed the restaurant on July 2, killing the gunmen and rescuing the remaining 13 hostages. Those killed were nine Italians, seven Japanese, three Bangladeshis and one Indian.
Khan, 22, and Karim, 47, were known to have been inside the restaurant, but Bangladeshi authorities and police denied having them in custody after the attack. Their families and New York-based Human Rights Watch had appealed for news about them and said the authorities were holding the men.
Khan’s family asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on July 11 to intervene in the case of the young man, who is a permanent resident of Canada. The family said they don’t know why Khan was being held, but insisted he had done nothing wrong.
His brother, Talha Khan, who is a Canadian citizen, sent a letter through a lawyer to Trudeau’s office, seeking Ottawa’s help in the case.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion’s office said at the time that government officials had been in contact with Bangladesh officials regarding the status of a Canadian permanent resident and were monitoring the situation closely.
Khan, an undergraduate student studying global health at the University of Toronto, had travelled to Dhaka to visit family, with plans to go on to Nepal where he was to begin an internship last month.
Karim was in the restaurant with his wife and two daughters and the family had said they were there to celebrate the birthday of their daughter.
But a South Korean man from a nearby apartment had shot a video of the scene in the restaurant in which Karim was seen talking to the attackers.
Police also said there were photographs showing Karim smoking on the rooftop of the building with two of the attackers standing behind him.
“We are taking them to a court and we have already sought 10 days police custody for further questioning,” Rahman said soon after the arrests.
Karim had lived in UK for nearly 20 years and returned to Bangladesh a few years ago when he began teaching in a private university in Dhaka. Later, he was under investigation for his alleged involvement with a banned Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir.
He left the university in 2012 and became a businessman. One of the attackers has been identified as his former student.
Bangladesh police have said they are investigating whether the attackers had links to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The claim was rejected by Bangladesh’s government, which said IS has no presence in the country and instead blamed a local radical group, Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh.
With files from The Associated Press