Bangladesh, April 3, 2017: Taharem Kaderi is in his teens. Instead of going to school, doing his homework, playing with friends after school, he became a militant. Now he is in a correction facility for minors, on terrorism charges.
Taharem knew about the attack in the Gulshan cafe by Islamic extremists that killed 22 innocent people, including nine Italians. He told the magistrate in section 164 that he was excited about the attack, as well as other militant actions.
Now terrorism has become Bangladesh’s foremost issue. For the past three weeks, law enforcement have carried out raids on a daily basis on terrorist hideouts, killing more than ten as well as several civilians.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the July 2016 attack against the Holey Artisan Bakery Café, in Dhaka’s Gulshan district. In his testimony, Taharem, a brilliant eighth grader in a famous school, described how he, his twin brother, and their parents became suicide bombers. Until then, the family led a good life before becoming involved in terrorism.
To avoid arrest, his father took his own life when police stormed their home. His mother is in custody, whilst his brother is missing, and he does not know where he is.
For Bangladesh, 2016 was the country’s worst year for terrorism, with police mobilised to find people affiliated with terrorist groups. On 10 October, the authorities carried out a raid in a four-storey building in Azimpur, Dhaka, during which they arrested Taharem Kaderi, his mother and other militants.
What follows is the teenager’s confession to the court (Text edited by AsiaNews).
My real name is Taharam Kaderi. I am 14. My assumed name is Anik alias Muaz, alias Ismial. I attended grade eight at Uttara Milestone School and College. I have a twin brother; his name is Afiq Kaderi. He is also involved with militant groups. His assumed name is Nabil. He attended the same school as me. We used to live in a house in Sector 13, Uttara, in Dhaka.
My father’s name is Tanvir Kaderi. He was involved with a militant group. His assumed name was Jamshad alias Abdul Karim alias Toushif Ahmad alias Shiper. He gained master’s degree from Dhaka Collage. He used to work for the Dutch Bangla Mobile Banking. He also worked for two other organisations in the Robi and Kallol group. He left those jobs and started his own home delivery business in Uttara.
My mother’s name is Fatima alias Abadatul alias Asha. She is also involved with a militant group. Her assumed name is Khadiza. She got a master’s degree from Dhaka University, the country’s foremost university. She worked for international NGOs Save the Children and Muslim Aid. We were a very happy family.
In 2014, my father and mother performed the Hajj pilgrimage. After their return, I noticed that their behaviour had started to change. We used to live in Uttara, Dhaka. Major Jahid (killed in gun fight) and Mouinal Hassan alias Musa (Fugitive of Gulshan Café Attack) spent long days with my father. My father and they prayed together at a mosque in Uttara’s Sector 13. They would later go for a walk.
Through my father, I was introduced to Major Jahid and Musa. I called them uncle. My twin brother and I went to pray at the mosque at the Life School, also in Uttara. “Uncle” Musa was our tutor in math, English and science. Major Jahid Rashad alias Rajsh also came to our house.
One night my father dreamt that he was in a desert with a weapon. He discussed his dream with an imam who advised him not to share it with others. Later we heard my father was encouraged to perform jihad (war/struggle for Islam) by Major Jahid.
Major Jahid, his wife and their daughter Pinky, Musa and his wife often came in our house. Major Jihad [also] lived in Uttara’s Sector 13. We also visited their home along Musa’s family.
On April 2016, we started our journey for Jihad. At first, my father was not for jihad, but later he agreed. We told our relatives and neighbours that we are going to Malaysia. Before starting the journey on jihad, my father said almost every day that where we were going would be a jungle or a confined situation. We left our home in Uttara and moved to Pallabi, Dhaka. Before the Jihad, my brother and I made a pledge to go on jihad to our father by touching our hands.
When we were in Pallabi, Basaruzaman Chocklet, Musa and Rashad alias Rash visited our home. Rash introduced us to Basaruzaman and Akifuzaman who was killed in Kalyanpur during an anti-militants raid by the RAB*. I asked my father during that raid, “are they our brothers? My father replied, yes, they are your brothers”.
Uncle Musa is 38, bearded, medium health. He wore shirt and pants. Musa, Chocklet and Rash regularly discussed jihad as an article of faith in Islam with my father. They frequently visited our home. They gave us videos about the Syria war, which we watched it. They gave us Dabiq magazine. There were some issues of Dabiq in the Bengali language as well.
During Ramadan, Rash asked my father rent another house. My father rented one in Bashundhara, near the Apollo Hospital. After we moved, Chocklet and four men came to the house. Their assumed names were Sad, Mamun, Umor, Alif and Shuvo. A few days later Tamim Chowadhory and Marjan came to the new house. The same day, Jahanger and his wife, son Shuvo and Ridoy visited with Chocklet.
Uncle Jahanger told us that he had robbed two places. The robbery money was used for organisational work. One day, Tamim, Marjan and Chocklet visited the house and brought weapons in a bag. The bag was full of weapons. They stayed in a locked room to discuss and did not come out.
There were seven rooms, including four bathrooms. Tamim and more four men stayed in one room.
I, my brother Ador and our father stayed in the drawing room. My mother and Shuvo stayed in another room. I heard people chatting that Alif and Umor carried out many operations. They went to Kusthia, a southern district where they killed a Christian or a Hindu. They said us they had trained for Jihad.
The uncles informed us that they were going to carry out a big operation but we didn’t know what. On the day of the attack at the Holy Artisan Bakery, Sad, Mamun, Umor, Alif and Shuvo went out at 5.30 pm with shoulder begs. They hugged each other and said, “We shall meet in Heaven, Inshallah”.
After the five of them left, Tamim and Chocklet also went out. As he was going out, uncle Chocklet advised my father to leave the house as soon as possible, even before evening. Two days earlier, uncle Jahanger and his family and Ridoy had also left that house.
We took iftar food** and went to Pallabi, Dhaka, by a taxi cab. When my father reached Pallabi, he was very worried. He said: “It’s been a long time and I have not heard any news”. He advised us to pray for the operation and that the police not catch them. Few moments later, I saw online bdnews24.com report shooting at Holy Artisan Bakery. I then understood where the operation was. In the morning, police published pictures of those involved in the operation at Holy Artisan Bakery. My father told us, “A great operation has been completed. Your brothers have become martyr. Then we all said, Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God).
Various media later published the pictures of the attackers of Holey Artisan Bakery. At that time, I found out that Sad was Nirbash Islam, a student at Monash University in Malaysia; Mamun was Rohan Ibna Imtiaz, a student of BRAC University; Umar’s real name was Khairul Islam Payal Badhan; Alif ‘s real name was Safual Islam Ujjal; and Shuvo’ real name was Mir Salaho Mobashor.
After the attack, we all were very happy. a few days later, Rash informed us that Chocklet was missing. Rash advised us to change house. So we moved to a house in Rupnagar from Pallabi. Somebody told us to rent another house in Azimpur, Dhaka, and stay in both house. Last August, we moved to the house in Azimpur. Chocklet and his wife Marjan visited us.
Police carried out a raid at Paikpara, Narayanganj. At that time, Major Jahid came to our home with a bag. Tamim Ahmad Chowdhury and his two allies were killed at Pikpara. Major Jahid told us that he had escaped from Paikpara. Later Major Jahid, his wife Pioty stayed at the house. Uncle Jahid was killed in Rupnagar on the day he came to our house.
On 10 October, at 6.30 somebody knocked our door. I tried to see through the door’s spy hole. My father also looked. We saw many people outside the door. My father gave me a gun and a sharp weapon. He told me to “keep it for yourself”. My father asked the people [outside the door] who they were. They said they were the police. My father asked them to show their ID card. They showed their ID card. He opened door.
Police asked why we were slow to open the door. They asked the family to be together. They asked my name. I said, I am Rasal. My father said he was Jamshad. Police took my father’s mobile phone. They also wanted to know Pioty’s name. They started searching our whole house.
When my father tried to go into another room, the police caught him. I pushed police. At that time aunt Pinky wounded a policeman with a knife. I also attacked the police with a knife.
The agents eventually stopped me and brought me in a room. When they left, my father closed the door. At that moment, an agent shouted, “They have weapons! They have weapons”, and tried to get out of the room. My father showed a knife, and took me in front of police. He kept the sharp object near my throat. I told him father that it hurt. My father said, “Son, if you die, you will be a martyr. If you don’t die, Allah will give you the best reward.”
An officer eventually took me to the balcony. In the meantime, my mother and other women attacked the police with chili powder. Police tried to defend themselves with mattress. Later I heard the sound of shooting.
A few moments later, other agents joined in the raid. They broke the door and rescued me and the other officers. When police took me out, I saw my father’s dead body in a pool of blood, his throat was cut. I also saw aunt Pioty dead and my mother in a pool of blood. My father probably killed himself because he had told us that if the police caught him he would commit suicide. Police found four guns, bullets and other weapons. My brother was not with us at the Azimpur house. My father had moved him to another place, but I don’t know where that is.
* Rapid Action Battalion
** Iftar is the evening meal during Ramadan after breaking their fast at sunset.