A Hindu man says he “escaped death” during the July 2016 attack by five armed jihadists on a restaurant in Dhaka by “reciting the Quran,” reports BBC, noting that had the Islamist militants found out his religion, he would have shared the fate of the 29 people who lost their lives.
About 10 percent of Bangladesh’s population of about 156 million is Hindu, the rest (89 percent) are nearly all Muslim, according to the CIA.
The terrorists reportedly assumed the Hindu man belonged to the country’s Muslim majority after he repeatedly pleaded, “For Allah’s sake, don’t kill me.”
One of the jihadists “asked me what my name was,” the Hindu man, identified as Shishir Sarker, tells BBC. “I just said my name was Shishir – I didn’t tell him my second name because that would have revealed that I’m Hindu.”
When five armed Islamist militants stormed a restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 1 July 2016, 29 people lost their lives. Emerging from the appalling, bloody debris are stories of immense courage. There are also unanswered questions about what happened to some of those who died.
One of the survivors, Sarker, is identified as one of the chefs at the Holey Artisan Bakery and O’Kitchen restaurant where the jihadists shot and hacked 29 people to death and wounded at least 40 others on July 1, 2016, just before the Islamic festival of Eid that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I crawled on my hands and knees over dead bodies and blood,” Sarker tells BBC.
The jihadists asked Sarker to cook for them.
“Perhaps [one of the militants] was suspicious,” notes BBC. “He asked Sarker to recite from the Koran. Sarker calmly carried on frying sea bass. And he recited Koranic verses.”
Sarker points out, “All my life I’ve had Muslim friends, so I knew some Surah [chapters of the Koran]. But I was so frightened. I was thinking – would I satisfy him?”
The chef served the food to the Muslim hostages and to the staff before dawn, in accordance with the Islamic tradition during Ramadan.
“I was so scared, when I ate I couldn’t swallow the food. But I thought if I didn’t eat, they would think I wasn’t going to fast the following day, and then they would guess I wasn’t Muslim,” says Sarker.
The siege on the Dhaka restaurant ended soon after sunrise with authorities killing the five jihadists as well as rescuing Sarker and his surviving colleagues.
Although the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack, some Bangladesh officials have expressed doubt that the terrorist group carried out the massacre, saying instead that the jihadists are likely linked to Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), one of the most prominent Islamic extremist groups in the country.
JMB is affiliated with ISIS rival al-Qaeda.
Both terrorist groups, ISIS and al-Qaeda, have been associated with a spate of attacks in Bangladesh over the past two years, often involving jihadists using machetes, against individuals including writers, bloggers, academics, activists, liberals, atheists, foreigners, gays, and religious minorities.
“Life will never be the same for this unassuming young chef,” reports BBC, referring to Sarker. “He is working again, but still traumatized by that hellish night.”
“I don’t see any future. I can’t sleep properly,” reveals the Hindu survivor. “Whenever I’m alone and I think of that night, I just can’t do anything – I feel terrified.”