Two Former IS hostages from Bangladesh Come Home

By Kamran Reza Chowdhury
150407-BD-oilworkers-620 Relatives welcome home Bangladeshi Mohammad Anowar Hossain (center), a former hostage of the Islamic State militant group in Libya, upon his arrival in Dhaka, April 6, 2015.

Two Bangladeshis, who were among foreign oil workers kidnapped by Islamic State (IS) militants last month from a Libyan refinery, finally reunited with their families back home this week, after their captors freed them on March 25.    

The two men – Helal Uddin, a resident of Jamalpur district, and Anwar Hossain, a resident of Noakhali district – said they were released because they were pious Muslims who showed “total obedience” to the people who took them hostage.

On March 6, IS fighters raided the al-Ghani oil field in northcentral Libya and made off with nine foreign workers, including Uddin and Hossain. The assailants reportedly beheaded Libyans who were guarding the facility.

“Three gunmen took nine of us on trucks and headed for an undisclosed location. They asked about our nationality and religion. Six of us were Christians and and three were Muslims, including one from Ghana,” Hossain told BenarNews in a telephone interview from his home village.

Both men said they were certain their captors would behead them as well.

“They separated the six Christians from us and took them away in another direction, while we were dumped into a room for days. We do not know what happened to them. The only thing we did was pray to Almighty Allah. We forgot to eat and even respond to the call of nature,” he said.

“Whenever they approached us, we got the sense that we have to die now. That was a horrible experience.”

Eavesdropping on conversations

Uddin said he overheard chatter among his captors. He paid close attention to what they were saying and realized there might be a way out of the ordeal.

“They kill the government forces, the Christians and people of other faiths. They brand the Muslims not praying once in a week as Kafir (nonbeliever) and kill them,” Uddin told BenarNews by phone.

The IS fighters were angrier about Muslims who did not say regular prayers than about people of other faiths, he recalled.

“They are Muslims by name only; they are Kafirs,” one of the IS captors told Uddin.

During the first phase of their captivity, Hossain said that he Uddin were held in three different rooms. They quickly lost track of the Ghanaian prisoner and didn’t know what happened to the other captives.

“They frequently changed the locations. They forced us to remain in the Sahara desert for days and nights. We were given dates and other food once a day,” Hossain said.

Their captors were heavily armed, did not demand money from them and rarely talked to them. They were all from Arab countries, Uddin said.

“In most of the cases, we used to maintain a distance from them so that they do not feel that we are trying to overhear their conversations,” Anwar, who understands basic Arabic, said.

Calling home

Two days before their release on March 25, the militants talked about releasing the two Bangladeshis talking among themselves about how they would release the Bangladeshi workers in a day or two, Uddin said.

His captors allowed him to phone his wife Aleya. He told her he was going to be released soon.

After their release, the two men returned to the oil field in Sirte. They stayed there until the Bangladeshi embassy in Libya arranged for their return home on Monday.

“Thanks to Almighty Allah, media and the people who worked and prayed for us. I have got my husband back unhurt,” Aleya, Uddin’s wife, told BenarNews.


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