Over the last 10 days, nine youths have gone missing in similar circumstances throughout the country. All the missing are either studying or working in renowned institutions, or are part of privileged society. Coincidentally, this matches the profile of the youths responsible for the terrorist attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery.
Among the nine, two were fourth year students of Pabna Medical College – Tanvir Ahmed Tonoy and Jakir Hossain Biplob, missing since November 30 and December 1. Of the others, North South University students Safayet Hossain, 24, and Zayen Hossain Khan Pavel, 23; and Sobuj alias Sujon, 25, and Mehedi Hasan, 27, also went missing on December 1. They were last seen dining together at a restaurant in Banani. Sayeed Anwar Khan, a Banani resident, has remained missing since December 5, while Care Medical College student Imran Farhat, a resident of the Dhaka Cantonment area, disappeared on November 29. Finally, Ahsan Habib, an employee of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB), has been untraceable since December 6.
Among the Gulshan attackers, almost all were part of similarly privileged society and all disappeared willingly. Of the deceased militants, Nibras Islam was a student of Monash University in Malaysia, Rohan Imtiaz was a student of Scholastica School, Meer Saameh Mubasher was an 'O' Level candidate at Sunnydale School, Shafiqul Islam Ujjal graduated from the Bogra Government Azizul Haque College and Khairul Islam Payel was a Madrasha student. Meanwhile the Solakiya attaker Abir Rahman was a BBA student at North South University.
Security experts said that the attack on the Holey restaurant has created an atmosphere of fear in people's minds whenever the question of missing youths rears up. After law enforcement drives in the wake of the attack, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) published a missing persons list with 69 youths.
Following the anti-militancy drives, during which a number of militant leaders were either captured or killed, Law enforcement officials claimed that the militant organisation was weakening.
However, security experts claimed that the radicalisation process was not stopped, despite this weakening of the organisation. As such, law enforcers must remain vigilant for radicalised individuals who may emerge in the future.
Monirul Islam, additional commissioner and chief of the counter terrorism and transnational crime unit (CTTC) told the Dhaka Tribune: “In recent days, militant outfits have become weak organizationally and there is no possibility of a den remaining in Dhaka.”
However, militancy is neither established nor removable in a single day, and therefore caution and vigilance is paramount, he added.
“We are collecting information on the missing to find out what happened to them” Monirul said.
Security expert Brig Gen (retd) M Shakhawat Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune that despite facing major crackdown, militant groups are still active and continue to recruit.
“These people need to be located, whether they are still in the country or are being trained abroad.
“Bangladesh's internal security will remain on a knife's edge if these missing people can't be found.”
While talking to the Dhaka Tribune, another security expert Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid said the current trend of missing youths is similar to what happened before the Holey Artisan attack.
“So doubts will remain on whether they are militants or simply left their houses for other reasons till they are found or located.”