How a teenager turned into a desperate militant in Bangladesh

by Nuruzzaman Labu

Nuruzzaman Labu

Only 17 years of age, the boy has just passed Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams. You can’t think how Rafat Islam (Pseudonym) became radicalized to be a desperate militant, just looking at his face. But he has all the updates of the international militant groups. He knows how to use all arms and weapons including sub-machine guns.

Desperate to carry out Jihad, he has been working as an adviser to a military cell of Neo JMB, a locally grown militant outfit. This militant group claims to be a branch of global militant group IS. However, the law enforcers have dismissed their claim.

Rafat was known by different nicknames within the organization. Some call him Abdullah, while some as William, or Qutb al-Din Aibak, Genghis Khan, Ali ibn Yusuf, RK Khan, Alp Arslan, or Mehmed Chagri Beg etc names.

The teenager was fond of being called by the names of Muslim heros. He had the wish to fight in the wars of Syria or Khorasan of Afghanistan that he also left home for so called Hijrat. But he didn’t become successful in doing that, Dhaka Counter Terrorism Unit was able to catch him along with one of his associates. Police were stunned at what he said in the interrogation and confessional statement.

The police officer investigating his case said he has vast knowledge about militant activities, compared to his age. If you see his conversation with other militants, none would sense he is so young by his age. Other militants were surprised to see him. He launched militant activities in Facebook.

How he was radicalized?

The reporter has talked to the police officers involved in investigation into the case of the teenager and his relatives about how this boy of an upper-middle class background end up being a terrific militant. The reporter also got hold of his confessional statement given to the court.

Rafat left home on July 4 last. On August 17, a team of Police’s Counter Terrorism Unit arrested him along with his associate Yasir Arafat Shanto from Sadarghat Launch Terminal when they both were returning to Dhaka for a meeting from a militant den in Chandpur, a southern district where they stayed one and a half month.

According to Rafat’s relatives, he passed SSC from BCSIR High school of Dhaka this year. He lived with his parents and siblings in a house in the capital’s Elephant road area. He was always abiding by Islamic rules from his childhood. He preferred laptop and his mobile phone to playing outside. He didn’t have many friends. Laptop and mobile phones were his company, which caused him disaster.

He also mentioned this in his statement to the court that he got involved with the militant group through a Smart phone, Laptop and Internet.

His statement was submitted to the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sadbir Yasir Ahsan Chowdhury on August 23.

Rafat said to the court, “I used to watch Tom and Jerry cartoon regularly. From my childhood, I was fond of war and arms and curious about these. Firearms, sharp weapons, war and mutiny are my favourite matters. Reading the letter of Fatema of Iraq and Neuroscientist Afia Siddiqui, I realized that the inhuman torture that the Nato forces including USA run on Muslim world and Muslim women is not acceptable. In this situation we should have annihilate them like anything. I planned accordingly. I started to gather knowledge in politics, economics, socialism, intelligence, war strategy, physical and mental training and firearms. I alongside tried to gain knowledge about Quran and Hadith.”

He got information about AK-47, M-16, AK-12, Air-50, Makarov , Glock-16, Glock-15, SR-25, Turkish T-5000 Sniper Rifle, Barrett M-82A1, Sub Machine Gun, MPS MP-5 , RPG-6, RPG-22, SSD, Hickler & Koch, M-8 Carbiner, Dessert Eagle, AK-74, Glock-34C etc from internet.

He said in the statement: “I learned the name, effective range, weight and Cartridge size from internet and how to use these from YouTube. I learned about their manufacturer. From 2018, I learned martial art from internet. I have known the war strategies of primitive to present era and mastered those.”

Rafat told the CTTC officials during interrogation that he leaned towards millitancy through, and learned use of arms and martial art from, internet. He was inspired by the books on the life and heroics of Umar bin Khattab, Kaka bin Amr, Khalid bin Walid, Muhammad bin Kashem, Hajjaj bin Yusuf, Salauddin Ayubi, Shahid Abdur Rahman, Ali bin Sufyan, Alp Arslan, Ikhtiyar Uddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji online.

He confessed, “I made IDs in the name of Ali Khan, Sufian Ali and Abdur Rahman to work in internet and for militant activities. Then I contacted with my Mujaheedin brothers. We talked via audio-video”.

He opened a telegram account in the name of Ali Ibne Sufian, Sulaiman 1475 etc name. On June 15 he met someone (his name was not revealed by the police for the sake of further investigation)  in facebook whom he called a brother. Then Rafat met someone called Faiyaz Hossain. They talked via message. Faiyaz told Rafat that they need a military adviser.

“Then I expressed my interest for that position,” said Rafat.

The militants are training their recruits at home now, the Counter Terrorism officials learned recently from several militants after arresting them.

An officer of specialized unit of the police said the militants are giving training on how to use the firearms and even making bombs via online.

Several militants who were arrested from Dhaka and Sylhet recently told the police about it.

The militants have spread Bengali manual on using firearms and maiking bombs online.

The counter terrorism unit observed that the militants run their publicity on the internet. And they wait for trapping potential recruit through internet. Now many like Rafat left home being motivated for jihad.

Mohammad Saiful Islam, Deputy Police Commissioner of Counter Terrorism Unit said Rafat got involved in militancy through internet. He had interest about firearms. He regularly read Jihadi propaganda. Seeing and reading these materials the boy was motivated for Jihad.

“Rafat had distance with his parents. Cashing on this, the militants recruited him in their organization.” the police officer also added.

Quietness is not always good

Rafat didn’t have friends. He barely had any interest in playing games.  A Smartphone and a laptop were his all-time companies.

His father Shahidul Islam Liton is a businessman at the capital’s Gausia market. He was busy doing business all day.  He was happy seeing his son staying all day at home and performing prayers five times a day. But he could never sense at all that the laptop, the Smartphone and the internet connection that he bought at his son’s demand would ultimate lead his son into the darkness of militancy.

The family has been devastated at the arrest of Rafat. They are in grave uncertainty about his future. Contacted Saffat’s father Shahidul didn’t want to talk about his son’s involvement into militancy.

The law enforcement officials suggested parents to have an eye on what their children are doing with the devices, like Smartphone and laptop. In case of Saffat, that didn’t happen.

The boy was trying to go abroad.

Rafat tried to go to Syria or Afghanistan for Jihad. But he couldn’t finally. So, he was trying to organize a cell to operate in the country.

Yasir Arafat Shanto, who was arrested with Rafat, said in his statement submitted to the court: “He told me that he was interested to join some organization abroad. For that he needs two persons. Though I was hesitant in the begining I agreed later. We then talked over audio messenger every day.“

“After 15-20 days we met on the Babubazar Bridge (soutern area of the capital city). I couldn’t realize that he was so young. He introduced himself as Abdullah. He talked about joining Jihad abroad. I came back after the conversation. He asked me to collect more members. He also taught me how I should discuss those matters. I connected some of them with the ID of Abdullah.”

In the confessional statement, Yasir Arafat also said.

(The Article was first published in Bangla Tribune in Bengali Language.)



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