A couple of weeks before the Gulshan café siege on July 1 last year, two of the five attackers received training in throwing grenades in the middle of the Buriganga.
One of the alleged planners of the deadly attack, Aslam Hossain Rashed alias Rash took Meer Saameh Mubasheer and Rohan Imtiaz in the middle of the river on a boat at night and taught them grenade throwing positions targeting the water.
Rash, also a key militant of “Neo JMB”, told interrogators that he was instructed by its chief Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury to receive the duo after they left home, Monirul Islam, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told reporters yesterday.
He also claimed that former activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, were at the helm of “Neo JMB”.
“Former Shibir men are now in direct leadership of Neo JMB,” Monirul said, briefing reporters at the DMP Media Centre.
Monirul said the information was gleaned from Rash, who was arrested in Natore's Singra early on Friday. CTTC officials said the arrest would help them wrap up the investigation into Gulshan café attack.
About the training in throwing grenades, Rash told interrogators that he had hired a boat at Sadarghat Launch Terminal and took it to the middle of the river as he wanted to avoid the explosions being heard.
He first threw and a grenade on water and then asked Rohan to do the same. At one point, Rohan was hit in his leg by a splinter and had to take treatment at a Sadarghat drug store, said Monirul.
Counterterrorism officials said Rash became radicalised from watching online videos. Shariful Islam Khaled, a student of Rajshahi University wanted in connection with Prof Rezaul murder, recruited him into “Neo JMB”.
Although Rash held no post in the terror outfit, he was very close to Tamim. He was about to be given a post when Tamim along with two associates got killed in a raid in Narayanganj in last August.
Rash was supposed to be with Gulshan café attackers. But Tamim did not let him go, saying that he would go for a big operation next time, said Monirul.
Leaders of the outfit picked the five attackers from eight young men considering their strength, training and cruelty, said a CTTC official.
Rash along with Choto Mizan, who was killed in a Chapainawabganj hideout on April 27, brought four 9mm pistols, bullets and magazine in a mango basket to Dhaka's Kalyanpur from Chapainawabganj for the café attack, said Monirul.
He handed over the firearms to Basharuzzaman Chocolate and Nurul Islam Marjan, who gave the arms to the attackers later, CTTC officials said.
Rash also admitted that he hired the Azimpur apartment for another militant Tanvir Kaderi after police started searching for him. Kaderi committed suicide in the hideout on September 10 last year during a police raid.
Rash and Akifuzzaman Khan, who was killed in Kalyanpur hideout on July 26 last year, brought the furniture for the Bashundhara flat, from where the café attackers went to Gulshan.
Monirul earlier said they would submit the charge sheet in Gulshan cafe attack case after the arrest of five “Neo JMB” leaders. They were Sohel Mahfuz, Mizanur Rahman alias Chhoto Mizan, Hasidur Rahman Sagor alias Joypurhat Sagor, Basharuzzaman Chocolate and Rashed alias Rash.
Of the five, Sohel was arrested on July 8 in Chapainawabganj. Chocolate and Mizan were killed during a raid in the same district on April 27.
“We are now trying to arrest Hasidur Rahman Sagor, who played a vital role in the attack. We believe he is in the country,” the CTTC chief said.
A CTTC official said Sagor was trying to bring some "Neo JMB" members on his side in a conflict over leadership. Some other "Neo JMB" men want to kill him for this.
About seven or eight militants had been killed in internal conflicts so far, said the official, requesting anonymity.
Rash was placed on a six-day remand by a Dhaka court.
As the investigation into Gulshan café attack reaches its final stage, Monirul said, “We will start working on the charge sheet after interrogating Rash in custody.”