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.”


Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

Police patrol in Harare, Zimbabwe, January 20, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 min ago
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Zimbabwe president to return home after deadly turmoil

  • A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe’s president announced on Sunday that he will return home and skip the World Economic Forum after a week of turmoil in which activists have said at least a dozen people have been killed in a government crackdown.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa had been under growing pressure to come home from a two-week overseas visit as accounts emerged of abuses by security forces, including dozens of people wounded by gunfire and others hunted down in their homes and severely beaten.
Zimbabwe has seen days of unrest since Mnangagwa made an announcement more than doubling fuel prices that made the struggling country’s gasoline the most expensive in the world.
Mnangagwa in his Twitter post didn’t mention the violence, saying only that he is returning “in light of the economic situation.”
The first priority, he said, “is to get Zimbabwe calm, stable and working again.”
At Davos, he planned to appeal for foreign investment and loans to the southern African nation, but the visit had been expected to be a challenge. His Davos visit a year ago came shortly after he took over from longtime, repressive leader Robert Mugabe, a move cheered by Zimbabweans and the international community.
A year of troubles in which his administration failed to improve the collapsed economy, narrowly won a disputed election and violently put down anti-government protests has caused widespread concern.
Growing frustration over rising inflation, a severe currency crisis and fuel lines that stretch for miles finally snapped after Mnangagwa announced the fuel price increase.
Civic leaders called for Zimbabweans to stay at home for three days in protest. Other people took to the streets. Some looted, in desperation or anger. The military was called in, and with Mnangagwa overseas, the hard-line former military commander and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was left in charge. A crackdown began.
More than 600 people have been arrested, among them a prominent pastor and activist, Evan Mawarire, who has supported peaceful protests on social media and now faces a possible 20 years in prison on a subversion charge. More than 400 people have been denied bail, said his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa. She said she will apply for bail at the High Court Monday. She said described the case against Mawarire as a “travesty of justice.”
Mawarire has called it “heartbreaking” to see the new government acting like that of former leader Mugabe, who stepped down under military pressure in late 2017 and was succeeded by former protege Mnangagwa.
In what critics have called an attempt to cover up abuses, the government in the past few days has imposed an Internet shutdown across the country. On Monday, the High Court will hear a case challenging the Internet restrictions. Although access to the Internet is back, social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp are still blocked.
Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, said Mnangagwa’s return “was long overdue, in the first place he was not supposed to travel abroad when the country was burning from the economic and political crisis. ... However, we don’t have confidence that his return will solve anything unless he opens lines of communication. What is needed is political dialogue but Mnangagwa has been avoiding us.”
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference last week lamented the government’s “intolerant handling of dissent” and its failure to halt economic collapse, concluding that “our country is going through one of the most trying periods in its history.”