Murky road to radicalisation
Those who have gone missing over the last one and a half years come from myriad backgrounds. From politician to businessman, from former civil and military officials to schoolteacher, and from private jobholder to mason and garment worker, their families are as varied as their academic credentials.
Some of them attended reputed universities at home and abroad while others studied in madrasas. Several quit studies at college level while a few others are school dropouts.
Some were professionals, holding most sought-after jobs of engineers and doctors. Two had active presence in the cultural field -- one was a singer and another played guitar in a rock band. One is a trained pilot.
The Daily Star has found this picture through its own analysis of over two dozen missing cases and reviewing the list of the 262 missing men released by the Rapid Action Battalion on Tuesday night.
Although their whereabouts and current activities cannot be ascertained, some of them have certainly been radicalised and turned into “killing machines” to murder innocents in the name of Islam of their own interpretation, as evident from the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks.
It is difficult to say how many of them have actually become terrorists, as many of them might have left home for family and personal reasons, according to Rab officials.
The Police Headquarters suspect some 100 of them have militant links.
Some of the missing men are believed to have flown to Malaysia first. From there, they travelled to Turkey and then mysteriously disappeared. Investigators suspect they are now in Syria, where terror group Islamic State controls a large swath of land.
The Daily Star has found at least six cases involving Malaysia.
Nibras Islam and Rohan Imtiaz -- two attackers of the Gulshan cafe -- and Tawsif Hossain, a close friend of Nibras, went to Malaysia for higher studies at Monash University. All the three simply vanished after returning home.
Junnun Sikder, a student of a top private university, Nazibullah Ansari, a marine engineer, and Mohammad Basharuzzaman, a private jobholder, also went to Malaysia and remain traceless.
All of them are from well-to-do families and went to reputed schools and colleges.
Besides, a five-member family of Rokonuddin Knondoker, a paediatrician at a government hospital in the capital, left the country in July last year, telling relatives that they would visit Malaysia and other countries.
They are yet to return home, and law enforcers suspect that the whole family has been radicalised and is in Syria now.
Soon after the July 1 Dhaka attack claimed by the IS (the government rejected the claim), a group of three Bangladeshis were seen in a distressing video where they congratulated the deadliest terror attack and the first hostage situation in the country.
During the 12-hour siege, terrorists killed 20 hostages, 17 of them foreigners, and two police officers.
According to US-based SITE Intelligence that monitors jihadist activists, the video was released from Syria's Raqqa, which IS controls and calls its capital.
The first person who appeared in the video was soon identified by friends and social media users as Tahmid Rahman Safi.
A signer, Tahmid is the son of a former home secretary and an election commissioner. He left home on April 23 last year for Malaysia, saying he was going on “honeymoon”. But the travel agency from which he bought the air tickets told Tahmid's parents that he went to Turkey, a gateway to Syria.
Media outlets identified the two others in the video as Tawsif Hossain, a student at the IBA of Dhaka University, and Arafat Hossain Tushar, a dentist.
According to the Rab list, his father is late Maj Ak Azad.
Earlier, a Bangladeshi youth was reportedly killed in a battlefield in Syria. The youth, Ashequr Rahman, was the son of an army colonel who was killed in the BDR mutiny in 2009.
He is named as Abu Jandal Al Bangalee in Dabiq, a propaganda magazine of IS.
The Rab list names one Jilani alias Abu Jidal, who is believed to be this youth.
THE MISSING FILES
Following the terror attacks in the upscale restaurant, Holey Artisan Bakery, in the capital's Gulshan and Sholakia Eidgah in Kishoreganj, the issue of missing men came to the fore after law enforcers released the photographs of the attackers.
Most of those who carried out the two attacks had remained missing for several months before the attacks. Law enforcers then intensified their search for the missing men.
As part of the efforts, the Rab released its list of 262 missing people, 52 of them from the capital.
Of the total, 126 vanished this year. The list mentions the age of 165 people -- 112 of them aged between 21 and 30.
Guardians did not sit idle. They filed general diaries with police, seeking assistance to find out their sons soon after they disappeared. The list shows as many as 170 GDs were filed with different police stations.
Some guardians have alleged that law enforcers did not help them find their sons despite repeated requests.
"Police at one point suggested that my son may have committed suicide," said Raushan Ali Khan, father of Mahmudul Hasan Ratul, 23, who disappeared on July 19 last year.
"I asked the police where his body was. They said not all bodies can be found," he told a private television channel.
According to the Rab list, Ratul received training in aviation from the Civil Aviation Authority after his Higher Secondary Certificate exams from Notre Dame College in Dhaka.
His father filed a GD with Adabar Police Station two days after he went traceless.
Ahmed Azwad Imtiaz Talukder, son of Maj (retd) Kabir Ahmed Talukder, went missing on February 29 this year.
Afif Mansif Chowdhury, son of Maj (retd) Abdul Mannan Chowdhury, had gone missing on March 1, but he returned home on May 22, according to the list that does not include any woman.
Similarly, Shamim Redwan, son of Maj (retd) Dr Kabir, came back in the last week of May after remaining missing for three months.
Another youth, Shahzad Rouf Arko, has an American passport. The MBA student at North South University went missing on February 3 and his father Touhid Rouf filed a GD three days later with Bhatara Police Station.
Mahidul Islam, 17, a madrasa student in Kushtia went missing on April 2 last year, while Mostafa Kamal, 26, a garment worker in Dhaka on July 6.
Both families filed GDs in this connection, according to the Rab list.
In addition to the three who returned home as mentioned in the Rab list, 16 others have also either returned home or contacted their families, our district correspondents say.
It may be mentioned that over the last few years, dozens of families across the country filed GDs or held press conferences, alleging that law enforcers picked up their relatives. Law enforcement agencies have consistently denied the claims.
NOT ALL ARE LINKED IN MILITANCY
There may be various reasons as to why these people have gone missing, Rab spokesperson Mufti Mahmud Khan told BBC Bangla Service.
Many leave home due to family conflicts. Some go missing for financial problems while some even leave over a quarrel and willingly, he explained.
"Therefore, it is not possible to say that they all are directly involved in militancy. We are not telling so either," Mahmud said.
WHY BECOME A RADICAL?
Waning family and social ties is a major reason behind radicalisation of youths, said Muntasir Maruf, a psychiatrist.
"Families and the society as a whole are not giving children the lesson of what is right and what is wrong. As a result, these children can easily be motivated to do anything," he told The Daily Star.
Children could be motivated to take drugs or believe in radical ideologies in the same way, said Muntasir, an assistant professor of psychiatry department at Shaheed M Mansur Ali Medical College in Sirajganj.
Pointing to the education system, he said the lack of extracurricular and cultural activities at educational institutions leads to monotony and students want something new.
Taking advantage of this, some may infuse negative ideologies into someone, he said.