South Florida

‘I called her Angel:’ Miami-Dade student killed in Dhaka terror attack mourned

Abinta Kabir
Abinta Kabir Emma Louisa Jacoby

David Leinweber had just finished grading Abinta Kabir’s essay when he heard the news that his student was a victim of the Bangladesh terror attack.

Leinweber, a history professor at Emory University, taught 18-year-old Kabir in his The Making Of Modern Europe class, a summer course that ended June 22, days before Kabir traveled to Bangladesh to visit her family for the rest of her summer break.

“She was really excited about it,” Leinweber wrote in an email. “She talked a lot during our chats, in class, about her love for Bangladesh — the people, the culture, and the history.”

Kabir, a former Miami-Dade resident and a rising sophomore in the university’s Oxford College, was among the 20 hostages killed in the attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday. Two other students who studied at universities in the United States — Faraaz Hossain, also a student at Emory, and Tarishi Jain, who studied at the University of California at Berkeley — were also killed.

“This just seems like a tragedy beyond comprehension,” Leinweber said.

Social media lit up with grief stricken posts commemorating Kabir.

Afsara Adiba, Kabir’s cousin, said in a Facebook post that Kabir, who was born in Bangladesh, traveled to Dhaka earlier this week and planned to spend part of her summer vacation visiting friends and her mother’s family.

She went to the café after Iftar, an evening meal Muslims eat during the holy month of Ramadan, to meet up with friends, Adiba said.

“But she didn’t [come] back alive!” Adiba wrote. “I just don’t get it she and the other people were innocent.”

Survivors said the terrorists asked the hostages to recite portions of the Quran. Those who could prove they were Muslim were spared and given food to eat. Those who couldn’t rattle off passages of the holy book were tortured and killed.

Kabir was executed despite her faith, Adiba said.

“Was it her fault that she couldn’t speak Bangla that much?” she asked, referring to Bangladesh’s language. “Or was that her fault that maybe she couldn’t recite Qur’an properly?”

Another of Kabir’s cousin wrote a lengthy Facebook post about “our darkest day.”

Hazera Afiya wrote that 10 minutes after she left to hang out with friends at the bakery, she called them “yelling about gunshots and grenades.”

Her family rushed to the scene but were held back. They stayed nearby and waited for news at a stranger’s house. They listened to the gunfire and explosions and prayed for “some sort of miracle.”

They returned the next morning to find rubble where the bakery once stood, Afiya wrote. “We had no idea where Abinta was,” he said.

The family spread out to search every hospital for their loved one and tried frantically to get the list of the dead. That afternoon they finally heard news — one of the dead women had the same shoes and clothes Abinta was last seen in.

“Hands trembling and heart racing we rushed to CMH emergency,” he wrote. “ Blood dripping from her hair her neck , her lips were blackened. Her body contained wounds and bruises. She was gone.”

They retrieved her body at 8 p.m., almost 24 hours after she left to see her friends.

“She was the heart and soul of her family and was taken from us in a second,” Afiya wrote. “She was a gem in our family.”

A close family friend shared a photo of the grinning young woman posing with a certificate from the Phi Eta Sigma national honor society.

“I called her Angel since the day I met her,” Sinthia Arefin wrote. This is the second person she lost in the attack.

“I don’t have any words,” Arefin wrote. “I can’t take it anymore

I can’t

I can’t”

When reached by the Miami Herald, Arefin said Kabir’s mother was “like a sister” to her and served as her artistic mentor. She described Kabir as “full of positive energy.” She loved basketball and played for her school team, Arefin said.

Kabir attended four schools in Miami-Dade during her years in the district, said Miami-Dade public schools spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego. She transferred out-of-county in 2011, when she was an eighth grader.

She did not go to high school at a Miami-Dade public school. Gonzalez-Diego couldn’t confirm which schools Kabir attended due to state laws, but Local10 reports she was a student at Ada Merritt K-8 Center.

“Pray for her,” her mother told the station. “She was my only child and a very smart and caring person.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida from sunrise to sunset on Sunday.

Emory president James Wagner wrote in an email Saturday morning that he reached Kabir’s mother, who was in “unspeakable pain” over her daughter’s death.

“Please, as you are inclined, direct your kindest thoughts and sincerest prayers in her behalf and that of her family,” Wagner wrote.

Wagner said the university plans to honor both Kabir and Hossain when classes resume in the fall.

“In the meantime,” Wagner wrote, “please comfort one another and continue to hold these families in your thoughts and prayers.”

Kabir and her parents lived in a beige two-story home in a Southwest Miami-Dade suburb. Neighbors said the family kept to themselves.

Records show the neatly kept home is the Florida base for a Bangladeshi clothing company called Cassiopea Apparels LTD. State records show the company is run by Kabir’s mother, Ruba Ahmed; Tanveer Ahmed and Mohammed Kabir.

A man entering the home declined to speak with the Miami Herald. He shut the door quickly, ruffling the plant at the entryway — a peace lily.

Alex Harris: 305-376-5005, @harrisalexc

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