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Bangladeshi granted bail over deadly cafe attack

DHAKA (AFP) – 

A Bangladesh court Sunday granted bail to a student of Canada’s University of Toronto after police dropped charges against him over alleged involvement in the country’s deadliest terrorist attack, police and a lawyer said.

Tahmid Hasib Khan was picked up by security forces and later arrested after he was named as a suspect in the July carnage at Holey Artisan Bakery, Dhaka, where Islamist extremists killed at least 22 mostly foreign hostages.

Khan’s family vehemently protested his innocence, saying the 22-year old was in the cafe as a customer and was not associated with the five gunmen who hacked and shot to death the hostages in an attack claimed by Islamic State group.

Police on Sunday said investigators had not found any evidence against Khan, prompting a court to grant his bail, two police officers told AFP.

“Police submitted a report on September 28, saying that he was not involved in the Holey Artisan attack,” Khan’s lawyer Motiur Rahman told AFP.

“The Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate court today granted bail to him. We hope he will be released later today,” Rahman said.

Police confirmed in August that Khan and British citizen Hasnat Karim, of Bangladeshi origin, had been arrested and were being held.

Karim and Khan were both inside the Bakery when gunmen raided the cafe on the night of July 1, taking a group of mainly Western diners hostage and then killing 20 of them, along with two policemen.

But neither have been seen in public since the end of the siege when commandos stormed the cafe in the capital’s upmarket Gulshan neighbourhood on the morning of July 2.

The men’s families have said they were being held by security forces even though there was no evidence to link them to the attackers.

Police had denied the men were in their custody before announcing the arrest on August 4.

Reports in local media said both men were being investigated for suspicious activity during the siege. They said Khan was seen holding a firearm and Hasnat Karim strolling with the attackers on the roof.

The country’s national police chief told reporters that the two had fallen under suspicion as a result of their “behaviour and actions” during the siege.

Khan, who is a Bangladeshi citizen, was back in his homeland while on leave from university.

Police also named a Canadian citizen, Tamim Chowdhury, as the attack’s mastermind, saying his Bangladeshi group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh, not IS, carried out the attack.

Chowdhury was killed in a gunfight just outside the capital later in August.

© 2016 AFP