Details of Disappearance Sophia moved to the United States from her home in Bangladesh sometime during the mid-1990s. She was accompanied by her three-year-old son, Mohammed Tahseen Taef, and her husband, Mohammed Tareq.
Mohammed returned to Bangladesh in March 1999, but Sophia and Taef remained in Rochester, Minnesota. They resided with her sister, Mary Zaman; Zaman's husband, Iqbal Ahmed; and their young son, Asif Iqbal. Photos of Zaman and Taef are posted with this case summary.
Zaman, Ahmed and Iqbal moved from Bangladesh to New York City, New York in 1996. They initially traveled utilizing eleven-week visitors' visas. The couple moved to Rochester in 1998 and began working as servers at India Garden Restaurant. Sophia and Taef joined them in Minnesota shortly afterwards.
The restaurant's owner told authorities that he never witnessed any confrontations between Zaman and Ahmed. The owner said that Ahmed told him that he and his wife frequently argued privately. Their employer also stated that Zaman reported for work with facial scratches in 1999; she did not explain how she received the lacerations.
Authorities located credit cards receipts that indicated Ahmed was preparing to leave Minnesota with Iqbal during August 1999. Ahmed purchased a hand ax and numerous garbage bags at a hardware store on September 5, 1999. Zaman, Taef and Sophia disappeared from Rochester on September 17.
Ahmed phoned the restaurant owner shortly afterwards and claimed that Zaman was involved with another man in New York City. He said that she returned to the city with their son several earlier.
The couple never retrieved their final paychecks. Iqbal stopped attending school on September 20. The family's apartment was abandoned by the end of the month; all of their personal belongings and Ahmed's vehicle were left behind.
Investigators learned that Ahmed had been charged with his wife's attempted murder in New York in 1998. The complaint stated that Ahmed locked Zaman in a bathroom and strangled her until she lost consciousness. The prosecutor was forced to drop the case when Zaman refused to cooperate with authorities.
Zaman and Taef's remains were discovered in a ditch near Rochester in November 1999, two months after they disappeared. They had both been decapitated and their bodies were placed in garbage bags. Neither of their heads has been recovered.
Their bodies remained unidentified until mid-2000. Authorities elected to keep the victims' identities confidential while they continued building their case against Ahmed, who was the prime suspect in the homicides of his wife and nephew.
It is believed that Ahmed and Iqbal traveled to New York City shortly after Zaman and Taef were murdered and Sophia disappeared. They returned to Bangladesh shortly afterwards. Authorities charged Ahmed with two counts of second-degree murder in July 2000, but the warrant remained confidential as well.
The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Bangladesh and authorities were hoping to force Ahmed to return to Minnesota through other means. His fingerprints were taken when he applied for a job as a taxi driver in New York in 1998. Ahmed's right thumb print matched one of the prints taken from the bag containing Taef's remains.
FBI agents questioned Ahmed in Bangladesh in December 2000. He claimed that he spoke to Zaman by telephone earlier during the year and said he believed she was still living in the United States. Iqbal was discovered residing in a nearby village and was not harmed.
The victims' identities and the homicide charges against Ahmed were announced publicly in October 2001. It is not believed that Ahmed will return to Minnesota to be tried. He is currently serving a life sentence in Bangladesh for two other, unrelated murders.
Investigators have never located Sophia and believe that she may have been murdered as well. Her case remains unsolved.
- Olmsted County Sheriff's Department
Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 2, 2011; middle name, picture, height and weight added.