BETHESDA BUNKER: Cause of death of victim in mysterious Bethesda fire released

- The cause of death of a man found inside a Bethesda home where tunnels and bunkers were being built underground has been released.

The Medical Examiner's Office said Askia Khafra died in September from "smoke inhalation and thermal injuries."

While the cause of death has been determined, the Montgomery County Police Department said the circumstances surrounding the 21-year-old’s mysterious death were still not clear.

FOX 5 learned that Khafra was at the house on Danbury Road working on the underground tunnels and the owner of the home told police why he was digging them. But how Khafra died still remains an open question.

"The Office of the Chief Medical examiner in cases like this wait for information from us in the investigation so that they can make a final determination in reference (to if it's) accidental or whether it remains undetermined or if it goes to being a homicide or anything of that nature so right now they are looking for more information from us and it's an especially in the case of a fire and the circumstances that we found it is going to be an ongoing communication and that undetermined could actually change to one of those other manners,” Montgomery County Police Capt. Darren Francke said.

In the months that FOX 5 has investigated the death of Khafra, we obtained photographs of the 21-year-old working inside the tunnels under the home as well as what appears to be a rigging above a hole - perhaps a system to extract dirt.

On the afternoon of Sept. 10, Daniel Beckwitt, the owner of the home, was working inside with Khafra when a fire broke out in the basement, according to officials.

Beckwitt escaped but Khafra was dead by the time firefighters got to him inside what a document stated was the laundry room. Beckwitt has never spoken publicly about what happened that day and has not responded to numerous messages from FOX 5.

Francke said Beckwitt has answered their questions and has given a reason for the tunnels but that was as far Francke would release.

“It's still an open investigation. We're working with the state's attorney's office from what we observed from the initial day and from our interviews since then. We are taking our time and the best way to put it is we are being very deliberate in our actions--we don't want to miss anything and we want to make sure we know as much as we can before we proceed in any direction," Francke explained.

Khafra told friends before he died that he was employed by Beckwitt to dig the tunnels and was blind folded every day before getting to the house because Beckwitt didn't want him to know where he was working.

Officials ordered the home to be torn down, but the homeowner originally appealed that decision, but has since rescinded the appeal. 

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