Bangladesh Seeks Whereabouts of 260 Missing in Hunt For Militants

Policemen patrol on the road leading to the Holey Artisan Bakery and the O'Kitchen Restaurant after gunmen attacked, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 3, 2016. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA, July 20 – Bangladesh police are trying to determine the whereabouts of at least 260 young men who have been missing for a year or more, a security officer said on Wednesday, as part of an effort to track militants after a deadly attack this month.

Five young men killed 22 people, most of them foreigners, in an attack on an upmarket Dhaka cafe on July 1 claimed by Daesh. Three of the attackers were from affluent Dhaka homes who had broken off contact with their families months ago.

Authorities have blamed the attack on a domestic militant group, but security experts say the scale and sophistication of the assault suggested links to a trans-national network.

In the days after the attack, the government appealed to families to contact authorities if their sons had disappeared.

A senior officer with the police-led Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which is involved in the counter-terrorism effort, said a list of 260 missing young men had been compiled from reports from families and intelligence tip-offs.

“Some of the missing youngsters are sons of retired or serving army officials, bureaucrats and businessmen,” Mufti Mahmud Khan, chief of the RAB’s legal and media wing chief, told Reuters.

He said information was still being gathered and the number of missing was expected to grow.

On the list, which the RAB posted on its Facebook page, was a 16-year-old, a doctor whose father was in the army and a man who was arrested in 2013 with explosives but who went to Malaysia while on bail.

Mostly Muslim Bangladesh has faced a series of attacks on liberal bloggers, university teachers and members of religious minorities over the past year.

Islamic State has warned that the violence would continue until Islamic law was established worldwide, saying in a video the Dhaka cafe attack was just a hint of what was to come.

Three young Bangladeshi men who appeared in that video posing as fighters also appeared on the list of missing.

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