A 24-year-old Bangladeshi-American student was among nine suspected terrorists killed in a gun battle with police in Bangladesh, Dhaka police said Wednesday.
In a social-media post, police identified seven of the nine suspects killed in the early hours of Tuesday after a raid in a residential neighborhood in Dhaka, the capital. Those identified included six Bangladeshis and American Shazad Rouf, 24, a master’s student in business administration at North South University in Dhaka.
Rouf was born in Bangladesh but spent time in Illinois and California as a youth, his father confirmed in a brief interview.
Police said the suspects – a 10th one escaped – are part of the local Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). A JMB faction is working with the Islamic State terror group, according to Monirul Islam, chief of the country’s counterterrorism unit.
Authorities said Rouf and the other suspects had apparently been living together in an apartment crammed with knives and small arms and draped in black Islamic State flags.
After Rouf had gone missing Feb. 3, his father had sought the help of police to locate him. His name was eventually listed among the 200 or so names of missing Bangladeshi citizens released this month by the country’s Rapid Action Battalion force.
After a deadly attack on a cafe on July 1 that left about two dozen people dead, including two police officers, authorities launched a wide-ranging effort to locate Bangladesh citizens who had gone missing and whose families feared that they could be entangled in militancy. All of the six attackers in the cafe hostage-taking had gone missing in the preceding weeks and months.
Rouf’s father said his son had not shown any signs that he had been radicalized in the weeks before he disappeared.
“That is the worst part. Maybe it was my inability to understand, but we never got any indication,” Tauheed Rouf said. The young man had been praying with some regularity, he said, but that was all.
The Muslim-majority South Asian nation has been grappling with a rise in terrorist violence since 2013. There have been brutal hacking deaths of secular bloggers, largely claimed by a local affiliate of al-Qaida, and the killings of foreigners, Hindu and Christian priests, and other minorities that were claimed by the Islamic State.
Until the Holey Artisan Bakery cafe attack, which was also claimed by the Islamic State, authorities had denied the presence of international terrorist groups inside the country. They instead pointed the finger at local militants and political opponents of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Authorities now say several of the missing Bangladeshis may have left their families to join radical groups.
Shazad Rouf’s father said the young man was born in Bangladesh and immigrated with the family to the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst in 1999.
Later, the whole family – except the father, who is an arms and military supply trader – became U.S. citizens and relocated to the San Francisco Bay area. The family moved back to Bangladesh in 2009 so Rouf’s mother could be treated for cancer; she has since died. Rouf graduated from the American International School in Dhaka in 2010 and from North South University last year before embarking on his master’s program.
The elder Rouf said he had gone to identify the body earlier Wednesday and was not entirely sure it was his son, but police said they had made a positive identification through fingerprints in the national identity-card database.