Taz Rahman was born and raised in a higher-middle class family living in Dhaka’s Salimullah Road. He moved to Cyprus after completing his secondary school certificate examination from Dhanmondi Government Boys High School and higher secondary from New Model College.
During his decade-long stay there, he married a Latvian girl and moved to Finland. It was here that he started showing signs of change. About three years ago, Taz moved to Syria to join terrorist group Islamic State and died fighting for the terror outfit in Iraq.
On May 11, his photo was published in Arabic Nashir channel on Telegram and later on the At-Tamkin Bangla website where he was identified as Abu Ismail al-Bengali.
The statement accompanying the photo did not contain the time of his death. Toha Mozammel Hossain, who monitors activities of the IS, said the IS does not usually publish pictures, or issue statements, at the deaths of regular members.
“It only does so in the case of leading militants or suicide attackers. The outfit usually specifically mentions suicide attackers,” he said.
The day Taz’s picture was published, photos of several other Iraqi fighters were also released. Taz’s picture did not have any caption but others were mentioned as killed in “ishtihadi” attacks.
“So, we can assume that in the eyes of IS he died fighting gallantly or had gone out for a suicide attack but was killed by Iraqi federal police before he could blow himself up,” Toha said.
Supporters of the police had expressed joy at Taz’s death on the federal police’s Facebook page. Toha said this led him to suspect that Taz might have been killed by the police.
Our correspondent contacted a Finland resident who identified Abu Ismail as Taz. The man said they studied hotel management at the same college in Cyprus in 2000 and stayed together.
The Finland resident, who declined to be named for security reasons, confirmed that Taz’s family lived in Mohmmadpur but failed to provide any contact number. He informed that one of Taz’s relatives worked in the entertainment industry.
When this correspondent finally caught up with the relatives and showed Abu Ismail’s picture to them, they identified him as Taz.
Taz’s elder brother, who requested anonymity, said they had not been in touch for several years now. He said he had only informed his elder brother about Taz’s death. “Our parents are old and our sister lives with a pacemaker in her heart. We chose to withhold the information, fearing that it could be devastating for them.”
He said Taz used to lead a “modern life” in Dhaka and used to play the drums for a band. “He lived his life the same way in Cyprus too, had several tattoos and used to roam around in shorts. He even married a Latvian girl. It is hard to believe that someone like him would get involved in militancy,” Taz’s brother said.
Taz had visited Dhaka with his wife once in 2009 but the pair separated two years later, months after they had moved to Finland.
The Finland resident said they studied at the College of Tourism and Hotel Management in Nicosia. Taz quit his studies after two semesters and started working at the Imperial Beach Hotel bar. “He spent his whole income on drinks and night clubs. I can’t believe that he ended up as a radical,” the friend said, adding that the last time they met, Taz sported a beard and wore a cap.
Taz changed after divorce
After separation from his Latvian wife, Taz met Dr Abdul Mannan, imam of a mosque in Oulu, Finland. He became influenced by Mannan’s radical religious views. Until then, he maintained contact with his family. Later he married Mannan’s daughter.
Taz called his brother once in 2012. “I was on my way to get my daughter admitted to a music school. He vehemently opposed it. I understood that he was being radicalised,” his brother said.
The militant rarely called his family in Dhaka and never introduced them to his second wife, saying it was not permitted in Islam. “We do not know his father-in-law Mannan. We have heard that he has been living in Finland for 20 to 25 years. They gave the address of one of their relatives at Panthapath but we did not find anyone at the address,” Taz’s brother said.
Taz’s friend said Mannan’s family was supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. “He used to spend most of his time with Jamaat supporters and was involved in local politics.”
The militant’s brother and friend said they assumed Taz had travelled to Syria in 2014 or 2015. Security forces had arrested one Gazi Sohan, a Bangladeshi who had returned from Syria. Sohan had said he met one Abu Ismail al-Bengali in Raqqa. But it could not be confirmed whether the Abu Ismail Sohan met was Taz.
Sohan is currently in jail. From what Sohan said, it can be assumed that Taz had gone to Syria at the beginning of 2015.
Taz’s wife, father-in-law missing
His relatives in Dhaka said Taz barely kept in touch with them over the last several years and whenever he called them, he did not say anything about himself.
“We thought our brother was doing well and we could not even imagine that he would embrace radicalism,” his brother said. “But we could do nothing. His cell phone was switched off. The numbers of his father-in-law, mother-in-law and wife were also out of reach. There was no way we could contact him.”
One of Taz’s friends said he had travelled to Syria with his wife and child. His friend, however, could not confirm the current state of Taz’s wife and child or say anything about his father-in-law and mother-in-law.