A Bangladeshi politician spoke yesterday of his horror to learn his son was among the suspects who murdered foreigners at a Dhaka cafe, and said many young men from wealthy, educated families were going missing.
Imtiaz Khan Babul said his 22-year-old son Rohan Imtiaz, who was killed when commandos stormed the cafe on Saturday, had been a top-scoring student whose behaviour gave no hint he was radicalised before he disappeared last December.
“I was stunned and speechless to learn that my son had done such a heinous thing,” a tearful Babul said.
“I don’t know what changed him. There was nothing that would suggest that he was getting radicalised. He hardly read any religious books.”
Babul, an official with the ruling Awami League party, said he believed his son may have been “brainwashed” online.
He had not seen Rohan since travelling to India in December with his maths teacher wife, leaving their three children in Dhaka.
In the months following Rohan’s disappearance, Babul lobbied senior party officials to help find his only son and even scoured the city’s morgues. As he searched, he met other families who had suffered the same fate.
“I met so many parents whose boys had gone missing,” he said. “Even yesterday, one of them was saying that I was lucky that I got the body of my boy. Some of them are not so lucky.”
Security forces shot dead six men when they stormed the cafe, bringing the all-night siege to an end, while one suspected attacker was taken alive.
Police initially identified all six as suspected attackers, but yesterday they said they were looking into whether one was a kitchen worker who was held hostage.
Relatives of Saiful Islam Chowkider raised the alarm after recognising the 39-year-old among the pictures of the suspects police released after the siege.
“We protested. We said he was never a militant. He was hardworking man and one of the best pizza and pasta makers in Bangladesh,” Chowkider’s cousin Solaiman said.
“We went to the military, but they would not hand over the body, they said he was a suspect.”
Witnesses say the perpetrators of the attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, spared the lives of Muslims.
Bangladesh’s foreign minister met diplomats yesterday.
“We’ve raised our worries during the meeting. We discussed how to deal with the situation and ensure security for the diplomatic community and the foreign community here,” one foreign diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The government says homegrown extremists are responsible for the deaths of some 80 secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities murdered over the last three years.
It has repeatedly denied international jihadist networks have a presence in the country, even though IS and a South Asian branch of Al Qaeda have claimed a number of attacks.
Bangladesh’s home minister has said the men behind Friday’s attack at an upmarket cafe were highly educated and from wealthy families.
Among them was Meer Saameh Mubasheer, an 18-year-old student at an elite school whose father said he was “a victim of his simplicity”.
“He couldn’t keep his attention on one thing for too long. But he was always into religious study,” said Meer Hayet Kabir.
“He was slow in his mental growth and didn’t have many friends.”
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