Ahmed Azwad Imtiaz Talukdar aka Omi, an A Levels student at Sunbeams School in Dhaka, spent 372 days at various militant hideouts, waiting for his call to “hizrat.” He wrote a letter to his parents and broke his mobile phone before leaving. He was finally arrested by police on March 7.
Omi left his house on the instructions of an unknown contact. He went to Mohammadpur, where he was instructed by a person to get on a bus without asking questions. He then got off at Mirpur’s Shah Ali Market. Another person then hailed a rickshaw with him and made Omi wear special glasses so as to hide the route to the destination. After the rickshaw ride, he was taken into a house where he saw five or six other individuals, all of similar age as him. He was told to not share any personal information, nor to ask for any from the others, and given a new name – “Haidar.”
Omi then spent 372 days at various militant hideouts, before being arrested in Comilla’s Chandina while on a bus on March 7. Police arrested him on six counts, and he was interrogated by Comilla, Chittagong and Dhaka’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit (CTTC). Omi divulged the locations of various militant safe-houses during interrogations.
Dhaka CTTC Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mannan said: “Omi told the entire story of his involvement with militancy during the interrogation. We were able to get a clear picture of the kind of motivation that drives people towards militancy, from him.”
Omi left to teach his parents a lesson
According to information from the CTTC, during the interrogation, Omi said that he was a single child. He was born on January 6, 1998. His father is Major Kabir Ahmed Talukdar, and his mother is Yasmin Hossain. Omi claimed that he never received proper attention from either of his parents. His parents allegedly always quarelled, and at one point started to live separately. His father began living in the cantonment, and his mother in Gulshan, and Omi would switch between living with each of them. He felt lonely because of his parents’ irate tempers.
Omi confessed that a primary reason for his involvement with militancy was the lack of attention from his parents. He apparently left the house to teach his parents a lesson. But he realised as soon as he joined the militants, that there was no turning back because the police would arrest him as soon as he did. He never returned, and was caught while trying to transport bombs for the militants.
How he turned to militancy
Near the end of 2014, Omi was living with his father in the cantonment. He met Ashikur Rahman Zilani, a student at Dhaka’s Military Institute of Science and Technology, while praying at the mosque. Zilani was later killed while fighting for IS in Syria.
Omi was impressed by Zilani, and asked his father to hire Zilani as a private tutor. While studying under him, Omi was brainwashed by Zilani on the oppression of Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Zilani was thus able to convince Omi to turn to militancy. Zilani then left for Syria through Turkey on February 21, 2015. He still maintained contact with Omi the entire time.
According to Omi, near the end of 2015 or early 2016, he was told to meet someone by Dhanmondi Lake at 6 pm. Omi met up with a teen of his age wearing a T-shirt, pants and a jacket at the appointed time. Omi was told that he would be informed within a month if he was ready for his “hizrat.” According to instructions, Omi began preparing for his hizrat, and wrote a letter to his parents. He then left home on March 1, 2016. Detectives believe that the unknown teen was the New JMB’s member Rashed aka Rash.
372 days in militancy hideouts
After leaving his house, Omi was trained in “akkida” and “manhaz” while in the Mirpur hideout. He was then tasked with translating IS’s propaganda into Bangla. During this time, he met with Nafiz, an English medium student. They were both then sent to Pabna, where they met another teen, Alam. Nafiz was the contact point for the group with the militant group’s head honchos.
Omi told detectives that Alam ran away after a month at the Pabna hideout. The group’s leaders then transferred the group to a different hideout in Mirpur over safety concerns. A militant named Akash and his wife also lived at that hideout.
Omi confirmed that Rohan and Nibras, two militants involved in the Gulshan attack, also stayed at that hideout for a while. Omi and the others were then sent to Sylhet’s Subidbazaar, where they heard about the Holey Artisan attack. They also spent some time at one Tamim Chowdhury’s house in Narayanganj. A man named Mahbub used to live in the Sylhet hideout at the time, who gave Omi Tk15,000 and a mobile phone and told him to explore Sylhet. Omi sent a letter home during this time, where he expressed his wish to return home, without giving his current address. He also mentioned in the letter that he was afraid to return for fears of getting caught by law enforcement.
Omi told investigators that there were no specific instructions given to them while they were in Sylhet. One day, Mahbub and Rashed, who were in charge of the Sylhet hideout, went to a meeting elsewhere. They instructed Omi to head to Chittagong from there. Omi then went to a hideout in Potia, from where he acted as a transition point for bombs. He was told to change hideouts after a while in Potia. He then moved to Mirshorai in Chittagong. He was taking bombs to Dhaka with his colleague Hasan on instructions from Farhad, the person in charge of the militant circle in Mirshorai, when he was apprehended by the police in Chandina, Comilla.
One of Omi’s interrogators told the Dhaka Tribune: “Omi is very intelligent, he has a sharp mind. He can pick things up very quickly. That is why the people in charge did not send him on operations, but had him do other tasks instead. We believe that if he had not been captured, he would have become one of the top leaders of the New JMB.”
This article was first published on banglatribune.com