Bangladesh faced an unprecedented situation as the Holey Artisan terror attack shook the nation to the core on July 1, 2016. It was a life-changing event for the victims' families.
But the country fought back. Things are now under control as the government has carried out anti-militancy raids one after another since the attack in the city's Gulshan.
This was the observation the home minister and top officials of the law enforcement agencies made yesterday at a government programme organised to honour the families of the victims of the country's worst-ever terror attack that claimed 20 lives.
They believe that now there is no chance of any big terror attack in the country, and even if an attempt is made to carry out one, law enforcers have the ability to thwart it.
Family members of four of the victims -- Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain, Abinta Kabir, Ishrat Akhond and Tarishi Jain -- were present at the programme in the capital's Rajarbagh Police Auditorium.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal handed over citations to them.
Faraaz's elder brother Zaraif Ayaat Hossain, Abinta's uncle Tanveer Ahmed, Ishrat Akhond's brother Ali Hayat Akhond and Tarishi's uncle Niren Sarker received the citations.
Kamal said that before the Gulshan incident, many terror attacks were made and many lives were lost, but Bangladesh fought back. People from all walks of life stood against militancy, responding to the call from the prime minister. This is why Bangladesh is now secure.
“We have been busting militant dens and arresting militants since the Holey Artisan attack.”
When militants are killed in raids, their family members or relatives don't even receive their bodies. Nobody even goes to morgue to see their bodies. The parents of some of the dead militants even apologised to the nation, he said while describing how militants are rejected by their families and the society.
Earlier, Monirul Islam, chief of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, talked about the progress of the probe into the Holey Artisan attack, the accused, counter-terror initiatives, and pre-emptive anti-militancy operations.
Col Anwar Latif Khan, additional director general of Rapid Action Battalion, also briefed the audience on anti-militancy operations by the elite force.
Speaking on the occasion, Faraaz's grandfather and Transcom Group Chairman Latifur Rahman said, “The attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery was a watershed for the nation, for me and for my family.”
“It was, as we all know, a massacre of completely innocent individuals from Japan, Italy, Bangladesh and India,” he said, adding that the terrorists were misguided individuals.
While giving the speech, Latifur became emotional, and repeatedly fought back tears.
Terming the July 1 incident a turning point, he lauded the government and law enforcement agencies for fighting terror constantly, showing zero tolerance.
Twenty-year-old Faraaz, who was studying in the USA, returned home on vacation and went to the Holey Artisan Bakery with two of his friends -- Abinta and Tarishi -- for a cup of coffee, he said.
Faraaz was allowed to walk out of the scene. But he refused to desert his two friends, and sacrificed his life.
“I can only admire the character, the values, the strength that Faraaz showed. I have asked myself would I have been able to do this, and honestly speaking, if I am true to myself, I don't know whether I would be able to do this.
“I can only say he [Faraaz] reflected the true values of Bangladesh, the true values of Islam, the true values of our culture,” he noted.
“We have to protect this country ... I live here, my children live here, my grandson, all here and all the Bangladeshis. So the fight [against terrorism] has to continue.”
Remembering the youths who fought the Pakistan occupation forces at Rajarbagh in 1971, he said the youths sacrificed their lives during the Liberation War for what was right. That are the true values of Bangladesh.
“I am proud that somebody like Faraaz was born in my family, and this is something my family will cherish for generations to come.”
On July 1, 2016, five terrorists stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery and killed 20 hostages, including nine Italians, seven Japanese and one Indian. Two policemen also lost their lives while trying to enter the bakery.
The five militants were killed in a commando operation on the July 2 morning, ending an 11-hour siege to the eatery.
Japanese Ambassador in Dhaka Hiroyasu Izumi said the seven Japanese nationals killed in the attack were engaged in different development projects in Bangladesh.
Japan continues to assist Bangladesh in its development activities, honouring the memory of those Japanese nationals, said Izumi.
David Dulan, resident representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, said the people of Bangladesh are sympathetic and kind, and they have proved it time and again.
A few cannot destroy the spirit, Dulan mentioned.
Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, home ministry secretaries Mostafa Kamal Uddin and Farid Uddin Ahmed Chowdhury, Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary, Rab Director General Benazir Ahmed, DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia, and high-ups of the home ministry and law enforcement agencies were present there.