New York blast suspect Akayed Ullah visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar during his last visit to Bangladesh in September, his family have revealed.
Akayed’s mother-in-law, Mahfuja Akhter, told the Dhaka Tribune that the 27-year-old travelled to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya to deliver aid to the displaced minority, though she could not recall the exact date.
“Akayed boarded a Cox’s Bazar-bound bus at night and then informed us about it through a video call,” Mahfuja said during an interview at her Hazaribagh residence on Wednesday.
“He reached Cox’s Bazar in the morning and left for Dhaka on the same day. He did not even stay in a hotel during his short visit there in order to save money to purchase more medicine for the helpless people.”
Officials of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crimes (CTTC) unit of police confirmed Akayed’s visit to Kutupalong camp, but said they were still to ascertain if he was accompanied by anyone else.
“I cannot believe that he could be involved with militancy,” said Akayed’s father-in-law, Julfikar Haider, who has been living Hazaribagh area for the past 22 years.
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Julfikar said Akayed visited Bangladesh three times after marrying his daughter, Jannatul Ferdous Jui, in January 2016.
“He spent most of his time at our house during these visits (and) stayed busy with his little son throughout the day. He only went out to offer prayers five times a day at nearby Shahi Mosque,” he said.
“He visited his maternal grandmother at Sandwip in Chittagong during his last visit. He also visited his uncle-in-law’s house in Uttara at that time, when we accompanied him.”
Akayed’s brother-in-law, Hasan Mahmud Joy, said relatives and friends of Akayed had visited their house during the wedding ceremony, but that afterwards, “none of his friends ever visited back”.
Akayed’s family members asked the Dhaka Tribune not to take any pictures or video of their family members to avoid harassment.
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During the interviews his wife, Jui, stood behind curtains to veil her face. Fighting through an illness, she told the assembled media that her husband was “innocent” and sought help from the media and Bangladesh government to ensure justice in the matter.
Both Jui and her younger brother Joy told the Dhaka Tribune correspondent that Akayed had asked them to perform namaz five times a day, which is a requirement for every practising Muslim.
“When my sister had a talk with my brother-in-law on Monday morning [December 11], she did not notice any unusual behaviour,” Joy said.
“We are now living in captivity. We cannot tolerate this anymore. We think Akayed might have fallen victim to a conspiracy.”
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The family is in shock after coming to know about Monday’s incident, when Akayed reportedly detonated a homemade bomb strapped to his body at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, injuring himself and three others.
After the blast, Akayed told police interviewers “I did it for the Islamic State”.
According to court papers filed by federal prosecutors, he also told investigators that he had been motivated by American airstrikes on Islamic State targets.
The 27-year-old Bangladeshi migrant was charged at Manhattan federal court on December 11 with providing material in support to a foreign terrorist organization, bombing a public place, destruction of property by means of explosive and use of a destructive device.
On Wednesday, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque said Akayed had no criminal record in Bangladesh and had last visited the country on September 8.