Members of Bangladesh’s elite are beginning to grapple with the reality that their sons, wealthy adolescents with access to the nation’s best schools, were responsible for a jihadi siege inspired by the Islamic State, which left 21 dead in the nation’s capital.
The parents of at least three of the jihadis killed in the attack last week have spoken out, describing their sons as seemingly normal young men with Western interests and no overt signs of radicalization. Imtiaz Khan Babul, a politician in the nation’s ruling Awami League party, told India’s NDTV that his son, Rohan Imtiaz, was not in any way “abnormal.”
“I never saw him reading or accessing any jihadi material,” the father said, noting that he would have noticed in the family computer’s history if there were anything suspicious there. He suggests Imtiaz was accessing jihadi propaganda on his personal phone. “I don’t know whether he was reading jihadi material through that,” he said, “someone must have planted these thoughts in his head.”
The NDTV report shows Imtiaz’s bedroom full of Western books and signs that he was, as his father confirmed, a fan of the British soccer team Manchester United.
Meer Hayet Kabir, father of terrorist Meer Saameh Mubasher, was among the first parents to come forward, telling The New York Times on Sunday that police had approached him to identify the body of his son at the morgue, but he had been emotionally unable to make the trip. “How will we arrange a funeral for him in these circumstances? Who will come?” he asked then.
Now that it has been confirmed that one of the terrorists was Kabir’s 18-year-old son, he tells CNN he is still hoping for a miracle case of mistaken identity. “This cannot be. … I still want to believe that Sameh is not in that body,” he said on Monday.
In an interview with Reuters, Kabir urged Muslim families to use his son, who grew up in a family where his father worked a lucrative job as a telecommunications executive, as an example. “We are a caring family. If they can steal my son from my family, they can steal anybody’s kid,” he warned.
The parents of the third of five attackers, 22-year-old Nibras Islam, have issued a statement apologizing to Bangladesh.
“We are ashamed, sorry and owe an apology for our son’s involvement in the attack,” the statement reads. “Nibras did not know how to eat by hand. We complain to Allah against those who gave firearms and ammunition to the hands of that boy.” They describe the terrorist as “honest, meek, and gentle.”
Social media screen grabs identify him as a fluent English-speaker with an obvious Western education and an interest in Bollywood movies.
“They are all highly educated young men and went to university. No one is from a madrassa,” Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said of the profiles of all five terrorists, whose images were released by Islamic State media shortly following the attack on the upscale Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
The jihadists’ profiles defy repeated claims by White House officials that the poverty and lack of economic opportunity motivate jihadists, and that an adherence to Islam has no place in the practice of jihad.
The five gunmen stormed the bakery on Friday night, forcing patrons to recite Quranic verses or die. Those who could not quote the Quran suffered gruesome deaths. “They used gas cylinders to beat and mutilate dead bodies,” one witness stated.