Authorities in Bangladesh will not investigate the reported death in the Middle East of an Islamic State (IS) fighter of Bangladeshi origin, the country’s home minister told BenarNews.
Earlier this month local news outlets reported that Bangladesh-born Taj Rahman was killed by security forces in Iraq at an undetermined date. Rahman had emigrated to Cyprus and then Finland, and was believed to have joined the ranks of IS sometime in 2015, the reports said.
“We have no information about his death,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said in an interview this week.
“We do not need to investigate it. We are least bothered about it,” he added.
Pro-IS media had released a picture of a man they named as Abu Ismail al-Bengali with the words “May Allah accept him,” without mentioning the date, location or cause of death, the Bangla Tribune reported on May 12. The Tribune identified Abu Ismail al-Bengali as Taj Rahman.
A relative who spoke to BenarNews on condition of anonymity confirmed that the man in the picture was Taj Rahman, but maintained he was killed in Syria.
He said he had verified the information through other sources but did not notify the police because, as he put it, the family wanted to forget about Taj.
“[O]n May 8 this year, a person came to us, and showed me the IS media report on the death of their member Abu Ismail al-Bangali along with his photos. I recognized that it was … Taj, an IS member. He was killed in Syria,” the relative told BenarNews.
“It was a double blow for us. On May 8, the wife of my eldest brother died,” the relative said, adding, “This is really strange for me how a cultural boy like Taj turned into an IS militant. You will not understand our pain.”
According to the report in the Dhaka Tribune, Rahman, who was in his late thirties, came from a “higher-middle class family” in Dhaka and was a former drummer in a rock band who worked in Finland as a physiotherapist.
‘Taj tilted toward prayers’
The source said he had lost touch with Rahman long ago.
He said his relative moved to Cyprus in 2001 or 2002 to complete a course in hotel management. After living there for about a decade, working in restaurants and bars, he eventually moved to Oulu, Finland with a Latvian wife, Dita.
She and Rahman later split and he married a second wife, Samia.
It was in Finland, where Rahman came to know a Bangladeshi expatriate who held “extremist views on Islam,” and it was from that point on that Rahman became radicalized, the relative told Benar.
“After seven to eight months in Finland, Taj tilted towards prayers, fasting and other Islamic rituals. Some of his friends informed us that his Islamic views were turning extreme,” he said.
“He, along with his [second] wife, their child, father-in-law, and others went to Syria. He was killed in Syria. We do not know about the fate of his spouse, the baby and his father-in-law,” the relative added.
‘No Bangladeshi joins IS from Bangladesh’
More than 50 Bangladeshis have joined IS in Iraq and Syria, according to security experts. At least eight IS fighters of Bangladeshi origin have been reported killed in the Middle East, said analyst Sakhawat Hossain.
One of those killed in that region was identified as Siful Haque Sujan, an information technology coordinator for IS who had moved to Syria from Britain. He died in a U.S.-led coalition air strike near Raqqa in December 2015, according to the Pentagon.
Since 2015, Bangladeshi officials have denied that the so-called Islamic State group is present in the country. The denials persisted after IS claimed responsibility for a terrorist siege at a café in Dhaka in July 2016 that left 29 dead.
“Look, I categorically tell you that no Bangladeshi joins IS from Bangladesh,” Minister Khan told BenarNews, maintaining that Bangladeshi expatriates living in Europe, Canada and other regions had travelled to Iraq or Syria to sign up with Islamic State, but not via Bangladesh.
But Hossain, a retired brigadier general, cast doubt on that assertion.
“At least 50 Bangladeshis have joined the IS; most of them went via third countries … But some youths outsmarted the security agencies and joined the IS in Iraq and Syria from Bangladesh,” Hossain told BenarNews.