Believe-it-or-not 'terror' face

Millionaire's US-returned son among those killed in Dhaka raid

By Devadeep Purohit
  • Published 28.07.16
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July 27: Mohammad Shahzad Rouf, an MBA student in his twenties who loved to sing singer-filmmaker Anjan Dutt's songs at family gatherings while strumming his guitar, has been identified as one of the nine alleged terrorists killed in yesterday's raid in Dhaka.

After Bangladesh police uploaded the photographs on their Facebook page, the US-returned Rouf family identified Shahzad.

Some relatives have said the family members are US citizens and Shahzad's father is a "dollar millionaire" who supplies crowd-control gadgets and defence products to security forces in Bangladesh. The young man's grandfather, Brigadier General Abdur Rouf, was chief of the intelligence service of the armed forces, they added.

A picture taken last year shows Shahzad at the wedding of one of his sisters. The faces of the other persons in the picture have been concealed by this newspaper. (Right) Shahzad after he was killed during the raid on Tuesday in Dhaka

Shahzad was a student of North South University (NSU), the institute that has come under the glare of the Bangladesh security establishment because some of its erstwhile students had been linked to the recent terror attacks in the country.

One of the attackers of an upscale café in Dhaka on July 1 was an NSU alumnus, Nibras Islam. Bdnews24.com reported that Shahzad and Nibras had been friends.

"He (Shahzad) was a fun-loving, normal boy, who loved playing musical instruments.... I still remember a family gathering in January this year, where he sang Dutt's song Chakri-ta ami peye gechhi Bela sunnchho (I have got the job, Bela)," recounted a relative who did not wish to be named.

Since the July 1 terror attack, Bangladesh has been trying to come to terms with a revelation that young men exposed to western education and from wealthy families are joining terror outfits after running away from their homes.

Shahzad had been missing since February. According to the relative, Shahzad's father Touhid lodged a complaint with the local police station but there was no information.

When the authorities drew up a list of missing youths - after the July 1 attack brought to the fore the disappearance of the young - Shahzad's name featured on it. "From the photographs released by the police, we could identify him," said the family member.

"The family was in Chicago... but returned after Shahzad's mother was diagnosed with cancer. After coming back, Shahzad studied in American International School in Dhaka and did his International Baccalaureate. Then, he did his BBA and was studying MBA at North South University," said the family member.

"The family has a liberal background.... They would host parties at home where people would come and sing. His grandfather was the director general of the DGFI (directorate-general of forces intelligence). How can someone from this family become a terrorist?" he wondered.

"Shahzad's mother died in 2009. Since then, he started praying five times a day.... But we never thought that he would become a terrorist," the relative added.

"We do not support what he did. We condemn terrorism unequivocally. But the authorities should also bring to book those who brainwashed youngsters like Shahzad and pushed them into this," the relative added.

The identities of seven of the nine alleged terrorists have been established. At least three were said to be from affluent families.

A police officer said the composition of the terror modules that had come to light in recent months suggested that recruiters were targeting young people from both urban and rural backgrounds. One reason could be that they want to send a message that their cause strikes a chord across class barriers.

The British Council has temporarily shut down its offices in Bangladesh amid rising security concerns.

Although it was mentioned that the organisation would reopen its office and continue it's work after new security measures come in force, no time-line was provided.

Barbara Wickham, director, British Council, Bangladesh, said in a statement: "We recognise that people in Bangladesh are increasingly concerned about safety and security in public places. The safety and security of our staff and customers is always our top priority."

The US embassy in Bangladesh advised its staff and American citizens to exercise extra caution and vigilance over the weekend. A group has called a rally this Friday to protest a government decision to prescribe a common sermon, prepared by the Islamic Foundation, for Friday prayers at mosques.