Bangladeshi commandos ‘killed hostage by mistake’

TOUGH TIMES: People stand in the rain and pay their respects to victims of the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 05 July 2016
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Bangladeshi commandos ‘killed hostage by mistake’

DHAKA: Bangladeshi security forces may have accidentally shot dead an innocent kitchen worker when they stormed a Dhaka cafe where gunmen were holding people hostage, police have said.

Saiful Islam Chowkidar, a pizza maker at the Holey Artisan restaurant, was among six men who were killed by the security forces on Saturday when commandos stormed the eatery to end a 12-hour siege, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
“We killed six people in the restaurant. A case has been registered against five. The sixth man was a restaurant employee,” Saiful Islam, a top police official investigating the attack, told Reuters news agency.
Separately, a Bangladeshi politician spoke Tuesday of his horror to learn his son was among the suspects, and said many young men from wealthy, educated families were going missing.
Imtiaz Khan Babul said his 22-year-old son Rohan Imtiaz, who was killed by commandos, had been a top-scoring student whose behavior gave no hint he was radicalized before he disappeared last December.
“I was stunned and speechless to learn that my son had done such a heinous thing,” a tearful Babul told AFP.
“I don’t know what changed him. There was nothing that would suggest that he was getting radicalized.”
Babul, an official with the ruling Awami League party, said he believed his son may have been “brainwashed” online.
He had not seen Rohan since traveling to India in December with his maths teacher wife, leaving their three children in Dhaka.
In the months following Rohan’s disappearance, Babul lobbied senior party officials to help find his only son and even scoured the city’s morgues. As he searched, he met other families who had suffered the same fate.
“I met so many parents whose boys had gone missing,” he said. “Even yesterday, one of them was saying that I was lucky that I got the body of my boy. Some of them are not so lucky.”
Security forces shot dead six men when they stormed the cafe, bringing the all-night siege to an end, while one suspected attacker was taken alive and is being questioned.
Witnesses say the perpetrators of the attack, claimed by the Daesh terror group, spared the lives of Muslims. The 20 people killed included nine Italians, seven Japanese, a US citizen and a 19-year-old Indian student.
On Tuesday the bodies of the Japanese victims arrived on a government plane in Tokyo. All had worked with the government-run Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Bangladesh.
Authorities said an aircraft carrying the bodies of the nine Italian victims had flown out of Dhaka early Tuesday.
Bangladesh’s foreign minister met diplomats Tuesday following the attack, the worst by far targeting the international community in Dhaka.
Hundreds of foreign firms operate out of Bangladesh and its clothes manufacturing industry is the lifeblood of the economy, accounting for more than 80 percent of exports.
“We’ve raised our worries during the meeting. We discussed how to deal with the situation and ensure security for the diplomatic community and the foreign community here,” one foreign diplomat told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government says homegrown extremists are responsible for the deaths of some 80 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities murdered over the last three years.
It has repeatedly denied international terrorist networks have a presence in the country, even though Daesh and a South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda have claimed a number of attacks.
Bangladesh’s home minister has said the men behind Friday’s attack at an upmarket cafe were highly educated and from wealthy families.
Among them was Meer Saameh Mubasheer, an 18-year-old student at an elite school whose father told AFP he was “a victim of his simplicity.”
“He couldn’t keep his attention on one thing for too long. But he was always into religious study,” said Meer Hayet Kabir.
“He was slow in his mental growth and didn’t have many friends.”


Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

Updated 13 min 32 sec ago
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Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

  • Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads
  • Buber will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019

KABUL: Booking a ride that picks you up from your doorstep has been a dream for many Afghans for a long time. The dream is now coming true. After the popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads, a private national firm came up with a local solution: Buber.
Currently on its test run, the service will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019.
Basharmal Dawlatzai, a Buber driver, says the initiative in a congested city where violence and criminal activities have been part of daily life for years, is a relief for both clients and drivers.
“It is very convenient for both sides, the customer does not need to walk to a street, wait for taxi in cold or hot weather and bargain with a taxi he or she does not know,” Dawlatzai told Arab News. “We go to their homes and drop them at their favored destination, which saves both sides time and hassle.”
He has been with Buber for two months and has taken around employees of Afghanistan’s Holding Group (AHG) that owns Buber, which in Dari means “Take me”.
AHG’s headquarters near the ancient Darul-Aman palace is tucked away behind blast walls with a sprawling compound that enjoys far better security measures than many state institutions which are the targets of routine attacks by militants in Afghanistan.
The security precautions at AHG include a series of body searches by armed guards as well as scanners and the layers of checks that make it look as if the compound is in top-secret location.
There is a different world and mood inside, and for a moment you may think that this is not Afghanistan, given the pace of its work and manner of efficiency. Groups of young sleek men and women are busy typing away on computers or discussing their regular daily activities.
AHG hopes to gallop and make Afghanistan catch up with the revolution in the field of technology that has spread across the globe in recent years.
Staff at AHG say that since its launch in 2009 the company has provided professional business services to more than 700 organizations across Afghanistan. Its clients range from small companies, non-profits and corporations to development institutions and government customers. It offers a range of services that include legal and human resources support and assistance with licensing, visas, payroll, taxation, audit and procurement.
Now, AHG is working on its new innovation, Afghanistan Technology Services (ATS), which covers Hisab (accounting) and Buber, online taxi ordering similar to Uber.
The Hisab application allows customers to pay online power and water bills and order goods for home delivery, as well as paying for Buber.
The online car ordering has been operating in Afghanistan for several years, but business is tailing off for the other two firms, which according to officials had not managed to develop an advanced application.
“Technology is taking over each and every thing across the world, we do not want to be behind those guys and we would like to reach somewhere and rebuild Afghanistan. This is our mission, to rebuild Afghanistan,” said Zaheeruddin Naeabkhail, Buber’s senior manager.
Until its launch in January Buber is on a test run to make sure that the application works smoothly. It has enlisted 500 vehicles, with Kabul being the immediate target, and with the intention to expand to other major cities later.
Not many will be able to afford the Buber service: Smart phone owners and literate people are its target.
Even the drivers will have to be literate.
In a country where there is no fixed rate for taxis and customers usually bargain, Buber will have fixed prices and can come to a customer’s desired address for pick up.
In a country riven by violence and crimes, such as abductions, Buber can offer peace of mind to clients as it has a tracking mechanism which clients can share with anyone they want to for their safety, AHG officials said.
“The problem for now in the market is the security concern. We have this facility for the user as well as the driver that allows them to be able to track users through our GPS,” Naeabkhail said.
Drivers will be registered with full details for security measures and they can help the police with information if anything happens to a client between pickup and drop-off.
The application can be a great help for the customer to avoid congested areas and routes where there is protest or there has been an attack, officials said, adding this will save time for the client and money for the driver, as well as reducing pollution.
“This application is very challenging application, nobody else has it, it is not easy for others to build it easily. Afghans have developed the application themselves,” Naeabkhail said.
Roadblocks created by officials, some embassies, foreign troops and factional leaders are the key challenges and Buber hopes to address that with the help of Google, he said.
“The main challenge that we face is the map, because Afghanistan is not mapped very well. We would like the support of Google if they are willing to help us … it is like general support for the public at large and also for any company that comes later and invests.”