Sohel Rana
Sohel Rana

SITE Intelligence Group, the organisation that tracks online activities of militant groups worldwide, on 16 August published two photographs. The caption read, ‘IS documents execution of practitioner of witchcraft in north of Bangladeshi capital.’ However, no name, identity or any other details of the person was given.

The international militant group IS had published the photographs and claim on its online site and SITE Intelligence picked it up from there. However, the media in Bangladesh hadn’t carried reports of any such murder. The law enforcement agencies are also unable to ascertain anything in this connection.

In one of the two photographs of IS published by SITE Intelligence on 16 August, Sohel is standing in a saffron T-shirt. He is bald, has two large-beaded necklaces and something like an ID card around his neck.

Prothom Alo’s investigations, however, have discovered the identity of the person. His is Sohel Rana (38), the eldest son of Abul Kasem of the village Shilashi in Gafargaon, Mymensingh. His family said that he has been missing for over a month.

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In one of the two photographs of IS published by SITE Intelligence on 16 August, Sohel is standing in a saffron T-shirt. He is bald, has two large-beaded necklaces and something like an ID card around his neck. The other picture is of a bald person dressed in saffron, lying on the ground in a jungle. His hands and feet are tied with a white rope and mouth gagged with a black cloth. It looks there is a white rope around his neck. His face is not clear in the picture.

The SITE Intelligence headlines read that the IS militants carried out this killing to the north of the capital. Gazipur is located to the north of Dhaka. Prothom Alo carried out a search there with the picture of Sohel in the saffron T-shirt.

The people of Barmibazar of Sripur, Gazipur, recognised the young man in the picture and identified him as Sohel. They said that he had been living in Barmibazar for two years, going around the marketplace selling rings, bracelet, amulets, ‘tabiz’ and such. He wore strange clothes and would spend the night at a salon in the market.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on 7 September at Barmibazar, the owner of the salon, Niru, said they would called Sohel by the name of Sujon. He would roam around the marketplace. He would spend most of the night at the salon. But he had stopped coming from a few days before last Eid. He was from the village Shilashi in Gafargaon.

A visit to the village Shilashi led to Sohel’s family there. His father Abul Kasem had a watch shop at Gafargaon town. Sohel would also work in the shop before. Abul Kasem, talking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, said that their family were followers of Maizbhandari. Around 15 years ago, Sohel also became a follow of Maizbhandari and added ‘Maizbhandari’ to his name. He then started staying at the mazars (shrines). Lastly he had been staying at Barmibazar of Gazipur, selling ‘tabiz’ and talismans. He would come home one a month or one in two months.

Kasem said that when coronavirus broke out, Sohel came home and stayed for about a month. Then a month before last Eid-ul-Azha he went back to Barmibazar. Kasem last spoke to his son Sohel on 31 July. Sohel had said he would come home the next day (Eid day), but he did not turn up and his phone was switched off.

Kasem has no idea of what has happened to his son or where he is. He asked this correspondent what had happened to his son.

The law enforcement agencies have continually denied Islamic State (IS) activities in Bangladesh. CTTC has said that it was the local militant outfit neo-JMB that carried out the attacks and killings that had earlier been claimed to have been done by IS
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Deputy commissioner of the police’s counter terrorism unit (CTTC), Saiful Islam, speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, said they were carrying out investigations based on the SITE Intelligence pictures. They had found the person’s national identity card and were scrutinsing it. He said they had got information about this matter from the five members of neo-JMB who had been arrested in Sylhet in connection to bomb blasts in Paltan, Dhaka and Sapahar, Naogaon. CTTC were still not confirmed that the person in the picture was actually killed or not. No body had been found as yet.

The law enforcement agencies have continually denied Islamic State (IS) activities in Bangladesh. CTTC has said that it was the local militant outfit neo-JMB that carried out the attacks and killings that had earlier been claimed to have been done by IS.

This pro-IS group was also involved in the brutal 2016 Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Gulshan, Dhaka. Now four years since then, IS has once again claimed a killing. Before this, militants had exploded bombs, targeting police, in Dhaka and other places. IS claims had been made taking responsibility for these incidents too. This has raised fresh apprehensions about the militants.

Security analyst Brig Gen M Sakhawat Hossain (retd), speaking to Prothom Alo, said that those would are carrying out such efforts on behalf of IS, have not shifted away from their target. They might not be going for any big target now, but that does not been their efforts have halted. They are doing all this to show they are active and also to motivate others in this direction.

This report, appearing in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir