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U of T student detained in Bangladesh following Dhaka attack

Last Updated Jul 5, 2016 at 6:05 pm EDT

A bizarre Toronto connection to an act of terror some 12,500 kilometres away in Dhaka, Bangladesh may simply be a case of the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

An expert on Canadian foreign fighters says a 22-year-old University of Toronto student who was initially rescued as a hostage, but is still in detention four days after the terror attack, is likely being interrogated because of his connection to Canada.

On Friday, at a popular tourist bakery, ISIS fighters carried out a brutal act of terror, killing 28 people, most of them tourists.

A high stakes commando take down rescued the surviving hostages, including 22-year-old Tahmid Khan, a permanent resident in Canada, who is in his final year of Global Health studies.

A family member speaking to CityNews by telephone from Dhaka says the last time they heard from the young man, he had called to tell his parents he survived and was being taken to the police station for questioning.

“The first thing he did is called his father and said ‘Dad, I’m alive’. I spoke to him as well and he told me he was being taken to the police station. He was assuring me ‘I’m going to be fine, you can come here and pick me up. I should be done very soon’,” said the family spokesman.

That was four days ago, they haven’t heard from Khan since.

Amarnath Amarssingam is a University of Waterloo researcher who has been tracking Canadians who join terror groups. He says there is nothing about Khan that raises any alarms.

“I think he’s just been picked up because the Bangladeshi government heard these rumours of a Canadian being involved with ISIS in Bangladesh. The government is spooked by the possible presence of foreigners plotting terror attacks in that country. From what I can tell [Khan] was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

So why are authorities so “spooked” by the Canadian connection? Likely because the leader of the Bangladeshi ISIS faction is believed to be from Ontario. “Tamim Chowdhury is from Windsor. There is not a whole lot about his biographical history but he has taken up a leadership role in ISIS in Bangladesh,” said Amarssingam.

In a Facebook post, the family of the detained U of T student describes how Khan was planning to leave Canada to go to Nepal for a Unicef project, but his mother convinced him to travel to Dhaka instead to celebrate Eid with the family.

“Tahmid went to the Holey Artisan Bakery to meet two of his friends when the terrorists sieged the restaurant for more than 11 hours. He was rescued along with another 12 survivors. We can only imagine what he is going through after experiencing such a horrific incident. We would want the police to look unbiasedly at his case and let him return to his families. #PrayForAhmid,” reads the Facebook post.

The Canadian government has not commented on this case, likely because Tahmid is not a citizen, but a permanent resident. His family has had no direct contact with consular officials but believe they are working on the case behind the scenes.

“We don’t know how he is, or where he is. We are worried about him. When the news came up of him being a suspect in this, it was very shocking for us. Everyone who knows him in Canada, in Bangladesh, everybody would vouch for him. He is an amazing person. This guy could not do anything like this,” said the family spokesman.