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Report identifies Japanese-Bangladeshi Hindu convert as 'mastermind' behind Dhaka cafe attack

The Dhaka cafe attack had left 24 people dead. Most of them were foreigners.? Photograph: (Reuters)

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jul 26, 2017, 03.59 PM (IST)

An investigative report in Bangladesh’s Dhaka Tribune has identified Sajit Debnath aka Muhammad Saifullah Ozaki, as the mastermind behind the July 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery.

The report says Ozaki is a Japanese-Bangladeshi Hindu convert and has been an associate professor at the  Ritsumeikan University.

The report went on to say that in April 2016, Ozaki’s interview reportedly featured in the 14th issue of ISIS’ ‘Dabiq’ magazine and in it Shaykh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif (Ozaki’s Islamic nom de guerre) was identified as the “amir of the Khilafah’s soldiers in Bengal.”

Ozaki has a PhD and according to the report he is considered an expert on Islamic finance and economic theory. He is also said to be well-versed in Islamic theory. 

“Ozaki took his current kunya ( nom de guerre) around May 2015, most likely because his identity including his old kunya was revealed to Bangladeshi security agencies by captured ISIS members Gazi Sohan and Aminul Islam Baig,” the report reads.

“Based on information provided by Sohan and Baig, police in Dhaka registered a case against Ozaki with Uttara West police station on May 24, 2015 (case No 23, filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act).”

Ozaki reportedly returned to Japan in June 2015 after which “the central ISIS leadership in Syria-Iraq appointed him as the group’s ameer in Bangladesh”, the report added. 

“With patronage and guidance of Ozaki, Sujan (killed in a US airstrike in December 2015) and Tajuddin, the Bangladeshi affiliate of ISIS, Dawlatul Islam Bengal, came into operational existence in July 2015, after a merger between a renegade faction of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Jund at-Tawhid wal-Khilafah,” the report said. 

Canadian-Bangladeshi jihadi Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, earlier identified as one of the masterminds behind the Dhaka attack, was appointed the “head of military and covert operations” in this new organisation while Sarwar Jahan was chosen as Ozaki’s representative on the ground, the report said. 

It was in September 2015 that IS claimed its first attack in Bangladesh, the murder of Italian citizen Cesare Tavella in Dhaka. The group carried out its second attack by murdering Japanese citizen Kunio Hoshi in Rangpur.

The report said that before these attacks IS activities in the country were mostly focused on recruiting Bangladeshi jihadi fighters for the Syrian war and most of the Bangladeshi IS fighters were directly or indirectly connected to Ozaki.

Ozaki’s whereabouts remain unknown. There are reports that in late 2015 he took his family to Syria after entering Turkey via Bulgaria.

Some other reports say he is in Indonesia or Malaysia. 

The Dhaka cafe attack had left 24 people dead. Most of them were foreigners. 

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