Jobless since the start of the pandemic, private university teacher Minhaj Hossain started seeking a job online and was soon drawn by the lure of an international militant outfit.
Minhaj, 38, then prepared a proposal to establish Khilafat (Islamic state) and sent it to the outfit -- Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) -- seeking an administrative position.
The outfit, formed in January 2017, accepted the proposal and summoned him to Syria.
Minhaj then flew to Turkey on a 15-day visa in September last year and then went to Syria. But he failed to communicate with the HTS leaders despite staying in Syria and Turkey for three months, before coming back to Bangladesh in the first week of January this year.
Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit said it learned Minhaj's story following his arrest from the capital's Darussalam area on January 23.
CTTC officials said they had gotten intel on January 15 that a private university teacher suspected to be involved in militancy entered Bangladesh from Syria, then started looking for him, and finally made the arrest.
A top CTTC official said after returning from Syria, Minhaj started communicating with the IS-inspired militant outfit Neo JMB with an aim to establish a Khilafat.
Although he lived in the capital's Uttara, Minhaj had gone to Khulna after returning from abroad and was trying to establish a Neo JMB network, the official added.
CTTC sources said Minhaj's mother was an employee of the World Food Program (WFP) and his father had a printing press in the capital's Paltan.
As his mother was stationed in Pakistan, Minhaj grew up there and completed his O-levels and A-levels in the country.
He later moved to America from Pakistan after his mother married a Dutch national.
According to information from the private university where Minhaj was employed, he completed his Bachelors from the London School of Economics.
He later enrolled at George Mason University in the United States to complete his postgraduate studies. Minhaj then completed his PhD from a university in Brunei.
He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Business Leadership. So far, he has written a total of three books. After completing his PhD, he travelled to several countries including Brunei, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
He came to Bangladesh in 2017 after his mother got divorced from the Dutch national, CTTC sources said.
Minhaj then started working for a private university but left the job. He then worked for a private company, before joining another private university.
But in March last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, Minhaj became jobless.
He then started looking for jobs abroad. During this period, he started reading different religious books and online content and was lured into militant outfit activities.
CTTC officials said Minhaj then got connected with the international outfit HTS.
Saiful Islam, deputy commissioner of CTTC unit, told The Daily Star yesterday that Minhaj was drawn to militant activities through different online contents. He was also planning to carry out anti-state activities in the country as part of Neo JMB as he believed in establishing a Khilafat, he said.
"Analysing his devices, we have already learned of his activities in Syria. We are now sending his laptop and cell phone for forensic examination to get details of the activities," he said.
"We also found some communication details of two to three of his associates. We are now analysing the information and trying to locate his associates in Bangladesh," he added.