The Rapid Action Battalion list of missing persons has not been updated since last year’s list of 70 people.
The most recent one still has Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury on it even though he was killed in Operation Hit Strong 27 on August 27 last year.
This begs the question of whether RAB is actively updating and calculating the number of missing persons that are still at large.
When asked, Media Wing Director of RAB Mufti Mahmud Khan told the Dhaka Tribune: “We will publish the updated list soon.” He admitted that many on that list have either already died in law enforcers operations or have been arrested.
Experts opine that the large number of missing people are still at risk of being radicalised and that the lax monitoring of the numbers has slowed the rate by which these people can be found.
“Some people who leave home saying I shall walk the path of Allah turn up as militant attackers,” said acting executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra Nur Khan.
“A number of them have been arrested or have died during anti-militant drives,” he added.
According to detective sources, a number of Bangladeshi citizens have been fighting in Syria and Iraq as IS supporters making law enforcers concerned over their return to Bangladesh.
As IS being defeated on the grounds in the Middle East, many of their trained soldiers are returning home, radicalised and ready to make lone wolf attacks.
Nur Khan echoes similar sentiments, saying some of the missing youths have left home to train and fight.
“This is why they leave home and appear on the missing person’s list before they make violent attacks and are finally identified. This is a huge threat to our national security,” he added.
The list of suspected militants that police have prepared since the 1990s has 3,000-3,200 people, whose names came from different sources – investigations, interrogations etc. But not all of them are militants.
A high official of police from the Headquarters said although they do update their list, some 50 missing people are suspected to be militants.
“No country has exact statistics of criminals or militants, Bangladesh also does not have such statistics,” the official said.
Bangladesh Centre for Terrorism Research Fellow Shafqat Munir said: “There is no ground to think that all missing people are involved with militancy. But as we have seen that many of missing people were participating in militant activities, we are preparing a list to establish their identities and backgrounds.”
Some numbers collected from media reports suggest that from the list of missing persons many of them have turned up as militants and suicide bombers.
Major General (retd) Abdur Rashid, a security expert, makes this point succinctly, saying: “Since the Holey attack, RAB had published a list of 262 missing people and another with 68 people out of which some have surfaced as militants while others have gone abroad to work. But there are some on the list whose whereabouts are still unknown and that begs the bigger question.”
When a suicide bomber blew himself up at the Shahjalal International Airport check post on March 24 police sources confirmed his identity as a missing youth named Ayad Hasan who had left home with his cousin Rafid Hasan on August 9 after completing his O level exams.
Before going missing, they had left notes that led their families to believe they had been radicalised. His cousin Rafid was later believed to have died during the raid of the Sitakunda militant den, awaiting DNA confirmation.
Another missing youth Omi was arrested by police in Comilla after he tried to attack a check post.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Counter Terrorism Unit Abdul Mannan said: “Being misguided and aware of imminent death, the missing youth had left home.”
Md Moniruzzaman, assistant inspector general (confidential) of Police Headquarters, said: “Sometimes parents do not inform the police regarding the disappearance of their children. If they inform the police in time, may be it would be easy to control militancy.”