Seven youths leave homes in the name of ‘hijrat'

Seven youths leave homes at the same time from Cumilla on 24 August 2022

Being involved in militancy, a section of youths is again leaving home in the name of hijrat (migration) and there are reports that seven youths simultaneously left their homes in Cumilla, according to relevant sources, however the number could be more.

The law enforcement agencies have information that motivated by banned militant outfit Ansar Al Islam, these youths, mainly college and graduate students, left the country for ‘hijrat’.

It has been learned from a relevant source that before these youths from Cumilla, some other youths from Sylhet also left their homes after coming in touch with the same militant outfit.

According to their families, the youths from different parts of Cumilla went missing together on 23 August.

Guardians of six of them have filed separate general diaries (GD) with the Kotwali model police station in Cumilla.

The missing persons are – Imtiaz Ahmed alias Rifat, 19, Nihal Abdullah, 18, Md Aminul Islam alias Al Amin, 23, Sartaz Islam alias Niloy, 22, Imran Bin Rahman Shithil, 17, Md Hasibul Islam, 17 and Ash Sami, 18.

Families of the first six have filed separate GDs. The last three are HSC candidates.

Imtiaz Ahmed is a first year student of the economics department at Cumilla Victoria Government College. He is from the Muradnagar village in Cumilla. His family lives in a rented house in the Cumilla town. His father Foyez Ahmad filed the GD on 26 August.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Monday afternoon, he said, “Some eight, including my son, went missing at the same time on the same day. I have some obligations from the administration to say nothing in this regard.”

Although Foyez Ahmad mentioned eight missing youths, the identities of the eighth one could not be confirmed. The law enforcement agencies couldn’t provide any information in this regard either.

Missing Nihal Abdullah is a twelfth grader at the Cumilla Government College. His family lives in the Ashoktala area of the city. His mother filed a GD on 25 August.

Aminul Islam alias Al Amin is a fourth year student of the Islamic studies department of Cumilla Vitctoria Government College. He is from the Bara Alampur village in Cumilla model Sadar upazila. They live in a rented house in the Jhautala area of the Cumilla city.

Aminul’s father Nurul Islam lodged a GD on 1 September. He told Prothom Alo, “Aminul is my eldest son. He used to go for chillah with the leaders of Tabligh Jamaat. Apart from his study, he used to help me in my business. It’s quite frustrating that he has not been found yet.”

Sartaz Islam has completed graduation in Computer Science and Engineering from Daffodil Uiversity. Imran Bin Rahman is a student of Cumilla Victoria Government College. Their house is in the Cumilla city.

His father Mojibur Rahman filed a GD with the police station on 24 August. He said, “Sithil (Sartaz) is my only son. He left at around 4.00pm saying he was going to the coaching centre. Later, he said he would attend a Tablighi speech at the Racecourse Nur Masjid. He didn’t return after that.”

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Muhammad Sahidur Rahman, officer-in-charge of Cumilla Kotwali model police station, said, “Police are investigating the missing youths. Police have found that after leaving their homes, those youths went to Chandpur from Cumilla. They spend the night at a hotel in the Chandpur Rail Station area. They checked out from the hotel at 6.30am in the morning the next day. They have remained missing since then.”

A top official of district police said, “It is clear from the information given by the families of these missing persons that they left homes motivated by militancy. We are investigating the matter with due importance."

Some six years after the horrifying militant attack in Holey Artisan Bakery, such a trend of leaving homes motivated by militancy among the youths is being considered quite alarming by the experts and concerned officials of the law enforcements as the people involved in the Holey Artisan massacre also left their homes before the attack in the same manner.

However, those who left homes before the Holey Artisan attack were mainly members of Neo-JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh). They claimed themselves to be members of Islamic State (IS). The missing youths this time are members of Ansar Al Islam, who claim themselves the Bangladeshi wing of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

Those youths, who left homes in between 2014 and 2016, mainly did it to fight for the IS in Syria. Although a portion of them went to Syria, the remaining ones were trained up by the Neo JMB at different militant dens within the country. That time, the militant leaders came up with a new explanation of ‘hijrat’ before those youth and said migrating from one place to another within the country would also be considered as ‘hijrat’.

The families of the youths who went missing recently say they left the country for Afghanistan.

Several officials of the law enforcement agencies affiliated with counter-terrorism believe that the youths, who went missing recently, are also being trained up in this or that militant hideouts in the country.

Major general (retired) ANM Muniruzzaman, president of Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies, said, “I think the Taliban took-over in Afghanistan created a sort of mental instability among the extreme-minded youths of the country. The extremist young people were encouraged by the fact that despite the death of top Taliban leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda was trying to reorganise, I think. The trend of going for hijrat may have developed due to this mental instability. Therefore, the fear of a new threat has emerged.”

“A sense of self-satisfaction has become evident within the law enforcement agencies that they have successfully contained the militant activities in the country. This sense of self-satisfaction brings relaxation in work, which may result in a disaster.”

*This report appeared on the print and online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu