Bangladeshi struggles with son's fatal fall into militancy

He has seen the body, and authorities say the fingerprints match. But Towhid Rouf is having trouble believing that this skinny, bearded man — killed with eight other suspected Islamist militants in a Bangladesh police raid — could possibly be his smart, well-behaved son.

Shazad Rouf Orko, who once lived in the U.S. and held an American passport, was a fun-loving student and a member of a musically inclined family who played guitar, his father said. He disappeared early this year, and before his death he reportedly left behind an audio tape in which he denounced his own family as apostates.

"My one mind says he is my son, again another says most probably not," Rouf said Monday in a telephone interview. "Some features match, but I can't imagine he is my son ... (that) my son can be part of it."

Orko, 24, and the other suspected militants were killed July 26 when police raided an apartment in the Kalyanpur area of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. One suspect was captured by police when he tried to escape and he was being treated with bullet injuries.

Bangladesh's secular government has geared up its drive against militancy after several months of deadly attacks targeting foreigners, atheist bloggers and religious minorities in the Muslim-majority South Asian nation. The worst came July 1, when armed men killed 20 hostages, including 17 foreigners, at a Dhaka restaurant.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks but the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has rejected the claim, saying they belong to banned domestic group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh.

Orko disappeared in February while he was a first-semester MBA student at Dhaka's North South University. His father filed a complaint with a police station seeking his whereabouts.

Rouf, who supplies arms and other items to Bangladesh's security agencies as a local agent, said he and his wife raised Orko and two daughters in a liberal environment.

"I myself play drums, my wife was a singer, my one daughter learned Bharat Natyam (Indian classical dance) and another sings Bengali songs very well. And Orko used to play his guitar so well that. ... I can't believe he has joined any militant groups," he said. "It seems to me impossible."

Rouf, along with representatives of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, saw Orko's body in a mortuary of Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

Authorities said Orko's fingerprint matched with his national identity card, but Rouf did not fully identify his son. Authorities say they will conduct DNA tests for all suspects.

"Again I have reasons to believe that he is my son. The fingerprint point is very important here. Maybe I will go to the hospital again and recheck and take responsibility," he said.

Rouf said his son had "a status in the U.S.," and that he brought him back to Bangladesh in 2009 after his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

"Currently I can't tell you about his citizenship status in the U.S. It has been seven years since he has left America. My two daughters live there, they are progressive and they live their life there peacefully. I don't want to jeopardize my daughters' lives."

Emails to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka to confirm Orko's citizenship status remained unanswered. A spokesman at the U.S. State Department referred questions to Bangladesh authorities.

Orko's involvement in the militant group has been confirmed by police investigators, according to the country's leading English-language Daily Star newspaper.

The nine suspected militants killed in Tuesday's raid recorded messages one by one to call upon people to join their cause for establishing a caliphate.

Orko spoke in English and criticized his family and those who "support Sheikh Hasina" and everyone who does not support Sharia law, according to the report.

He said he gave everything up for jihad and citing a holy verse to justify his action, he said, "Either you kill (us) or get killed, paradise is for us."

"You guys support Sheikh Hasina ... you support democracy ... that is why I am happy to call my family all murtads (apostates) ... all kafirs (atheists). So repent ... before it's too late so that you can be saved.

"We are getting instructions from Allah ... we are going to defeat you," he said.