Dhaka: Bangladesh government on Sunday claimed the attackers who slaughtered 20 hostages inside a cafe in the country's worst terror attack were members of "homegrown" Islamist terrorist outfits and not Islamic State militants, as the shocked nation began observing two days of national mourning.
"Let me clear it again, there are no IS or Al-Qaeda presence or existence in Bangladesh...the hostage-takers were all home-grown terrorists not members of the Islamic Sate or any other international Islamist outfits," Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told PTI.
"We know them (hostage-takers) along with their ancestors, they all grew here in Bangladesh...they belong to homegrown outfits like JMB (Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh)," he said.
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the killing of the hostages, mostly foreigners and one Indian girl, and two police officers during an 11-hour siege that ended on Sunday after the army stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery popular with expats in the diplomatic zone here, killing six attackers and capturing one alive.
A police source was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune that all the attackers were Bangladeshi nationals aged between 20 and 28.
Police said the attackers were well-educated and most came from rich families. "All of them were students and communicated at the crime scene in both Bengali and English," the police source said.
The government has consistently ruled out the presence of the dreaded terror group in the Muslim-majority nation though experts have been maintaining that series of brutal attacks on minorities and secular activists had the hallmarks of IS.
Meanwhile, police have released the photos of the six gunmen killed during the raid by commandos. A seventh was arrested and is being interrogated by Bangladeshi intelligence officers.
Police chief AKM Shahidul Hoque said five of the dead gunmen were listed as militants and police had been looking for them. Police identified them as Akash, Bikash, Don, Bandhon, and Ripon.
Bangladeshi media reports said that after US-based SITE Intelligence Group published photos of five gunmen holding assault rifles who, the Islamic State claims, killed the hostages, former classmates have started identifying by posting their old pictures on social media.
According to the reports, three of the five attackers have so far been identified by their friends. Announcing a two-day state mourning for those killed in the worst terror attack in the country, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vowed to do everything to eliminate terrorists from the country and asked extremists to stop killing in the name of religion. She asked all, including the general public, to get united to resist a "handful of terrorists".
Twenty hostages, including 19-year-old Indian girl Tarushi Jain, were hacked to death by terrorists inside the cafe popular with expats in the diplomatic zone before commandos launched an assault killing six attackers and capturing one alive.
Most of those killed were found with their throats slit. Of the 20 hostages slain 9 were Italian, 7 Japanese, one American of Bangladeshi origin, and two were locals, the army said.
Among those rescued were Indian, Sri Lankan and Japanese nationals, media reports said. Around 30 people were injured.
Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency, nearly four hours after the hostage crisis unfolded.