NEW DELHI (AP) — A Bangladeshi politician whose son was one of the Dhaka restaurant attackers said Wednesday that many young men from educated families have been missing like his son was for several months before carrying out the deadly attack.
Two police officers and 20 hostages — nine Italians, seven Japanese, an Indian and three students at American universities — were killed in the weekend siege at an upscale restaurant in the capital's diplomatic zone. Authorities have said security forces killed six of the attackers and freed 13 hostages in the rescue operation Saturday morning.
It was the worst in a recent series of militant attacks in Bangladesh, and the escalating violence has raised global concerns about whether the South Asian country can cope with increasingly strident Islamist militants.
Imtiaz Khan Babul, a politician in the ruling Awami League party whose son Rohan Imtiaz was one of the attackers, urged the government on Wednesday to take the cases of the missing men seriously and give them importance. "Those who have recruited them have done it with a target," he said, referring to the young men's family backgrounds. "Their (parents) are not speaking to the media, fearing their sons might be killed, leaving them in great torment."
Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Asaduzzman Miah said police all over the country were gathering information about the missing people and checking their backgrounds, adding that not all missing people were extremists. The exact number of missing men is not known.
Babul told The Associated Press that the missing men are sons of serving and retired government employees. He said his own son had not changed his behavior notably or become more religious before he went missing in December.
"It did not happen that all of a sudden he changed himself. He did not start going to the mosque suddenly," he said. "We often visited his room, but did not find any (religious) books. We did not see any souvenirs, magazines or related Islamic books," he said.
He said of his son's participation in the attack, "It is very shameful for us — it's humiliating, disparaging and sad. It's painful and embarrassing. I am a forlorn father, a failed father. I seek pardon to all, through you."
The parents and relatives of five of the restaurant attackers were questioned by police on Tuesday and some again on Wednesday, according to a police officer who declined to give details and spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The officer also said authorities have freed three of five former hostages they had been holding for questioning.
Police have eight people in custody, including one described as an attacker, but no one has been formally arrested as a suspect.
Bangladesh police have said they are investigating whether the attackers had links to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility. However, the government has blamed the attack and a wave of other recent killings on domestic militant organizations bent on imposing Islamic rule. The earlier attacks over the past several months were carried out by young men wielding cleavers and machetes who targeted atheists and other so-called enemies of Islam before fleeing.