Samiun Rahman, 24, is accused of travelling from London to Syria and Bangladesh, allegedly recruiting jihadists to fight for Islamic State
Photo: palash khan / Alamy
An East London taxi operator ran a Bangladesh terrorist cell recruiting jihadists to join Islamic State’s and al-Qaeda-linked militias in Syria, police in Dhaka have said.
Samiun Rahman, a 24 year old radio-cab controller of Bangladeshi origin, entered the country earlier this year and began targeting local Muslims through the Facebook page of a moderate Islamic television channel, they said. Two of those he allegedly recruited were arrested last week as they prepared to travel to Syria via Turkey posing as religious students.
He was produced in court in Dhaka on Monday where he was remanded in custody for three days under Bangladesh’s Anti-Terrorism Act. He is accused of criminal conspiracy and supporting a banned militant organisation. If he is found guilty he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Dhaka police said in a statement that he had confessed “he was staying in Bangladesh to recruit jihadists for the IS and Nusra brigade (an affiliate of Al-Qaeda). He further disclosed he took part in jihadi activities in Syria between September and December 2013”. Detectives are now investigating how his alleged recruitment operation was funded.
Police said they had learned of his recruitment drive when seven alleged Islamic militants arrested earlier this month said a British man known as ‘Ibn Hamden’ was approaching militants to join Isil fighters in Syria. One of those suspects was an associate of Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, the 21 year old student behind the failed 2012 attack on New York’s Federal Reserve Bank.
Bangladeshi police present Samiun Rahman on Monday (Alamy)
According to police Mr. Rahman had adopted a more radical Islamic lifestyle after he was arrested in London for being drunk two years ago and was detained for several days. After he was released, he advertised on the internet for an Arabic teacher to improve his understanding of the Quran.
In the advert, posted online in November 2012, he said he had struggled with learning the language online and wanted to study “classical Arabic so that I can understand the Quran, preferably in the Middle East, Egypt, Yemen, Morocco”.
He later traveled to Morocco and Mauritania before spending three months in Syria late last year. He arrived in Bangladesh on February 25th this year to begin his Isil recruitment drive, detectives said.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph as he waited to be remanded at Dhaka’s Metropolitan Magistrates Court, Mr. Rahman denied the charges and said he had no involvement in terrorism or with jihadist groups and that he had simply returned to Bangladesh to deal with a family property dispute.
He confirmed he had traveled with a friend to Syria last year but said it was for a humanitarian aid mission. He had been detained by British counter-terrorism officers after he landed at Gatwick on his return, but they had accepted his explanation and released him after a few hours, he said.
He declined to comment on police claims that he had been radicalised after being arrested and jailed for being drunk and said his conviction was now “spent.” He had studied the Quran to “become a better person”, he said.
Detectives had arrested him at his family home in Sylhet and had held him for five days before staging a fake arrest at a Dhaka railway station on Sunday, he claimed.
He said he believed police had arrested him after they intercepted a telephone conversation in which he discussed his work in Syria with another suspected militant who was recently arrested by police. He conceded the person he was talking to may have been involved in terrorism but declined to explain what they had discussed.
“Whoever I was speaking to maybe is amongst this scenario. They have no proof against me…and just because I spoke to someone about being in Syria, it wasn’t even in Syria, just the border, I think they go over-happy, something like this and they must have contacted a few other people and they said some stuff, but they did not mention my name. I saw the transcripts of the phone calls of the other persons. They never mentioned my name, and now I am under suspicion for trying to take people to Syria”, he said.
At Mr. Rahman’s family home near Grays Inn Road, Holborn, east London, a woman who said he was his sister said the family had “no idea what was going on”.
“We don’t know what he was doing out there. We don’t know anything about it. I can’t really speak to you”, she said.
A neighbour said Mr. Rahman had turned to Islam while serving a prison sentence.
“Before he went to prison, he wasn’t religious at all. He drank all the time. He was completely antisocial and always arguing with his older brother about this and that.
“He’s lived here with his mum and sisters for years. Then he got put inside. When he came out after a few months he was wearing the full Muslim gear, the hat, the robe, the beard – everything. I couldn’t even recognise him.
“I assumed he was putting it all on so he could get out of prison early. But instead of standing around on the streets, he started going to the mosque all the time. All the drink stopped.
“But then he went away to the Middle East. I know his mum told one of the neighbours she was worried he’d gone to fight with ISIS. It must be terrible for her.”
Mr. Rahman is accused of recruiting would-be Isil fighters in Dhaka and in Sylhet, in the north of the country, where his family are believed to have relatives.
Source: The Telegraph