Missing youths under spotlight | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 11, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:52 AM, July 11, 2016

Missing youths under spotlight

Police asked to collect information, make a list, then seek people's help to find them

The home ministry yesterday directed the Inspector General of Police to instruct all police stations across the country to collect information about missing youths, who may have been involved in religious extremism away from home.

It will make a list based on the information and publish the details and photos of those youths, seeking people's help for their arrest.

Police across the country, however, have started collecting such information upon a directive by the Police Headquarters two days ago. 

Yesterday's decision came at a cabinet committee meeting on law and order in the wake of two deadly terror attacks on a Gulshan café and at Sholakia in Kishoreganj in a span of just six days.

Several of the attackers, who are from affluent families and had gone to reputed educational institutions at home and abroad, had been missing for months from their houses.

It is believed that these men in their 20s took training and planned those attacks.

“We have unverified information about 60 to 70 youths who went missing,” said a top official at the Police Headquarters, adding that they were trying to learn more about them. 

Earlier on Saturday, the police HQ on its own instructed police stations across the country to send information about the missing youths.

“We have also instructed them to gather personal information of the teachers at some private universities and trustee members,” he added asking not to be named.

The police HQ also ordered the force to beef up security across the country to prevent possible militant attacks, said a top police official.

At the meeting, the cabinet committee also decided to ask all private universities in Gulshan, Baridhara and Uttara to inform the home ministry immediately about any missing students. 

Besides, Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid asked the authorities of all educational institutions in the country yesterday to report to his ministry about any students absent from the institutions for more than 10 days.

Talking to reporters at the secretariat, he said he would discuss with the authorities the steps to be taken to check militancy.

Meanwhile, authorities of North South University (NSU) recommended cancellation of studentship of any student found absent without valid reasons for one semester, instead of two semesters as in the past.   

A final decision, however, will be made after the higher authorities approved it, Belal Ahmed, deputy director (public relations) of NSU, told The Daily Star.

Following some recent attacks, it emerged that a number of the attackers were current and former students of the university.

As part of the government's anti-terror campaign, the home ministry would hold talks with the owners, teachers and student representatives of all private universities in the capital.

The four-hour cabinet committee body chaired by Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu also decided to shut all unauthorised educational institutions and business establishments in Gulshan area.

“We have decided to enhance capabilities of police and intelligence agencies,” Amu told reporters after the meeting at the home ministry.

Sermons during Friday Juma prayers at all mosques will be monitored to see if imams misinterpret Islam and encourage militancy in any ways.

At the meeting, representatives from Armed Forces Division recommended forming a special unit comprising law enforcement agencies, fire brigade as well as members from the forces to tackle attacks, especially like the one on the Gulshan café. But the meeting did not make any decision in this regard, sources said. 

One minister pointed to intelligence failures for the Gulshan and Sholakia attacks.

The July 1 attack on the upscale restaurant in the high security diplomatic zone is the worst terrorist attack in the country, which came after three years' of targeted killings of writers, bolggers, freethinkers, university professors, foreigners, gay rights activists and members of minority communities, including Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Shias.

Terror groups Islamic State and Ansar-Al-Islam claimed credit for many of these past attacks, but the government maintains that IS has no presence in the country.

Within hours of the Gulshan attack, IS claimed its operatives killed 20 hostages, 17 of them foreigners, and two police officers. Military commandos later stormed the café and killed “six attackers” as well as captured one alleged attacker. 

But no group has yet claimed responsibility for the Sholakia attack on the Eid Day. Two policemen and a woman from a nearby home were killed during the attack. Police later shot dead one alleged attacker and detained two others.       

However, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said primary investigation into the two incidents found JMB men were involved in the attacks.

“Homegrown militants are responsible for those attacks. Homegrown militants are trying to connect with IS through social media. But IS has no organisational base here,” he told The Daily Star after the meeting. 

Contacted police officials in Chittagong, Rangpur, Tangail and Bogra said they were yet to make a full list of the missing youths.

Various intelligence agencies have started gathering information about such youths based on the general diaries filed with the police, said officers-in-charge of several police stations in the capital.

However, it may be mentioned that over the past few years, dozens of families across the country filed general diaries, claiming their relatives were picked up by members of law enforcers. Many of these victims of forced disappearance remain missing as well. 

Also, many police officers said they were facing difficulties in collecting information about youths as many had gone into hiding to avoid arrest in scores of “political cases”.

Meanwhile, Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday urged all the judges to be more rigid in granting bail to the accused detained in terror cases.

“I appeal to the judges to be stricter in granting bail to those arrested in militancy-related cases, considering the responsibilities of the judiciary and the country's law and order,” the minister said at a programme in the capital yesterday.

The government has instructed the prosecution to place strong arguments before the court against bail petitions of militant suspects, he said.

[Our Chittagong, Dinajpur, Tangail and Bogra correspondents contributed to this report.]

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