Bangladeshi Man Tried to Travel to IS Stronghold from France, Police Allege

Sharif Khiam
Bangladeshi Man Tried to Travel to IS Stronghold from France, Police Allege Members of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion stand guard during a raid of a suspected militant den in Dhaka, April 29, 2019.

Counterterrorism officials in Bangladesh on Friday began formally interrogating a 24-year-old Bangladeshi man who they claimed was expelled by France for allegedly planning to join the Islamic State group in the Middle East.

Saif Rahman, also known as Toton, was arrested at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka after France deported him on Jan. 14, Saiful Islam, a deputy commissioner of the counterterrorism and transnational crimes (CTTC) unit, told BenarNews.

“A court in France issued Saif’s deportation order,” he said, adding that Saif was detained at a camp in France after his arrest and before being returned to Bangladesh.

“The court has granted a two-day remand to interrogate Saif Rahman. The counter-terrorism officials started interrogating him on Friday,” Iftekharul Islam, an additional deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.

Bangladesh police said they had recovered documents in French from Saif’s possessions that allegedly showed he had links to Middle East-based international militant outfits.

At the time of his arrest, officers had seized Saif’s laptop and mobile phone and sent them to forensic investigators.

As part of the investigation, “we got a two-page paper written in French that was in his possession. After translating the papers, we had proof of his militant link,” the CTTC deputy commissioner said.

“The French documents have proof of Saif Rahman’s involvement with international militant outfits,” Islam said.

According to him, the documents show that Saif had been involved with a jihad campaign since 2019.

“And in 2020, he attempted to go to IS-concentrated regions of Syria and Iraq, but the French police arrested him before he headed there,” Islam said.

“The French police considered Saif’s presence in France a danger for them so they sent him back. They think youths who fail to visit Syria and Iraq very often carry out attacks in the places where they have been staying.”

Islam said Saif has been jailed since his Jan. 14 arrest at the airport, adding a judge had earlier turned down investigators’ requests for a remand to question him.

The French embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to several BenarNews requests for comment.

Family in France

Police said Saif grew up in the Dohar sub-district of Dhaka.

Saif flew to France in February 2015, graduated from an educational institution there the following year, and then got a part-time job at the university. He is the only child of parents who also lived in France.

“His mother returned home after the French police arrested him, but his father is in France and is employed there,” Islam said.

“We are looking for Saif’s mother to get information about her son.”

On Friday, Mostofa Kamal, the officer-in-charge of Dohar police station, told BenarNews that he and his officers did not know anything about Saif or his family.

A counterterrorism analyst noted that Saif could have been radicalized outside Bangladesh.

“Actually, Bangladesh should not bear the responsibility for Saif if he had been radicalized and joined the IS from France,” M. Sakhawat Hossain, a retired brigadier general and security analyst, told BenarNews.

“The police in Bangladesh should definitely investigate and take legal action as France expelled him and sent him back to Bangladesh. We cannot take it lightly,” he said.

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