Akayed Ullah, accused of setting off a bomb in a crowded New York subway passage on Monday, was apparently influenced by sermons and write-ups of radical Muslim preacher Mufti Jasim Uddin Rahmani, police said.
According to law enforcers, the man also appeared to have no links with radical groups in Bangladesh.
“During his last visit to Bangladesh in September, Akayed had asked his wife to read the literature and listen to the sermons of Ansarullah Bangla Team [ABT] spiritual leader Mufti Jasim Uddin Rahmani,” said Monirul Islam, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the DMP.
He was addressing a press conference at the media centre of Dhaka Metropolitan Police yesterday.
CTTC officials on Tuesday quizzed Akayed's wife Jannatul Ferdous Jui, her father and mother. The officials, however, didn't find any book of Rahmani at her father's house on Moneshwer Road in the city.
Meanwhile, Jannatul yesterday said she could not imagine in her wildest dream that her husband would get involved in such an incident.
“I still can't believe my husband can carry out such an attack,” Jannatul told The Daily Star at her father's home.
She said she didn't notice any change in her husband's behaviour or lifestyle when he came to Dhaka about three months ago.
The ABT, later renamed as Ansar al Islam or Bangladesh branch of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), had claimed the responsibilities for the murder of a number of bloggers, publishers and freethinkers. The government banned the ABT on May 27, 2015.
Rahmani, now behind bars, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison in December 2015 for killing blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider on February 15, 2013. He is also facing several other cases.
In June last year, Director General of Police Bureau of Investigation Banaj Kumar Majumder sent a letter to the Police Headquarters requesting it to remove all the videos of Rahmani's sermons from YouTube as militants had confessed to courts of listening to those before getting involved in militancy.
The CTTC chief said they didn't find any criminal record of Akayed in their database or his links to militancy.
Those with whom Akayed communicated with during his stay in Bangladesh also don't have any criminal record, he added.
Monirul said police were suspecting that the 27-year-old might have been radicalised through internet contents after going to New York.
“Usually, Akayed didn't mix with any of his friends or relatives here. He spent most of his time at home,” said Monirul, adding that they were looking for his friends with whom he used to maintain contact.
He said Bangladesh police would extend its full support to the US investigators if they seek help under a “mutual legal agreement treaty”.
According to CTTC officials, an uncle of Akayed took his seven-year-old elder brother to New York. His brother then set up a business there and processed migration papers for his other family members.
Akayed was a BBA student at Dhaka City College in 2011 when he migrated to the USA. He came to Bangladesh in January last year and got married to Jannatul before returning to New York.
He travelled to Dhaka on September 8 this year to see his six-month-old baby boy. He returned to the USA the following month.
“During his stay in Bangladesh, he spent most of his time with his wife and baby,” Monirul said.
WIFE TAKEN ABACK
Akayed's wife Jannatul said CTTC officials on Tuesday checked her mobile phone and found an app on Rahmani. But she claimed she had no idea about the ABT leader.
She often talked to her husband over phone early in the morning. She talked to Akayed on Monday morning, but never thought that he could get involved in such an incident just a couple of hours later.
The mother-in-law of Akayed demanded a fair investigation into the incident to find out whether her son-in-law was guilty as they never noticed any extremist tendencies in him.
According to NY police, Akayed set off a crude bomb strapped to his body in a crowded New York subway passage on Monday. But the device failed to detonate properly, leaving him the only one seriously injured.
He survived with burns and lacerations and was taken to a hospital in police custody. Three bystanders sustained minor injuries.
SANDWIP RESIDENTS STUNNED
Residents of island upazila Sandwip, the ancestral home of the US immigrant, were stunned by the news of the New York blast, reports our staff correspondent in Chittagong.
Locals said Akayed's family left the area over 30 years ago. Some who saw Akayed visiting his maternal grandfather's home three years back said they didn't notice anything suspicious about him.
“His act has tarnished the image of Sandwip at home and abroad. His family has only a piece of land here, but his act has brought a bad name to the upazila,” said MA Hannan Tarek, a businessman.
Joynal Abedin, maternal uncle of Akayed, said they felt embarrassed about the heinous crime.
He said Akayed had offered prayers when he visited them three years ago. However, he had deleted the audio files of the sermons of some local religious preachers from his mobile phone and asked him not to listen to those.
BANGLADESHIS FEEL EMBARRASSED
Bangladeshis in the USA felt embarrassed about the Monday's incident, said Shamim Ahmad, press minister at the Bangladesh embassy in Washington DC.
He said Bangladeshis in general had a good track record of being honest and sincere at their workplaces. But they might have a difficult time finding jobs following the New York bomb blast incident, the official told the diplomatic correspondent of this newspaper yesterday.
Shamim, however, said Bangladeshis condemn terrorist activities by any individual or organisation. They are of the opinion that the individual who commits such a heinous crime should be held responsible instead of his entire community.