Bangladesh arrests three female militants

People paying their respects at the new building where the Holey cafe used to be in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday. Last year's terrorist attack by members of local militant group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh killed more than 20 people.
People paying their respects at the new building where the Holey cafe used to be in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Saturday. Last year's terrorist attack by members of local militant group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh killed more than 20 people.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

DHAKA • Bangladesh police have arrested three female members of an Islamist extremist group blamed for the deadly Dhaka cafe siege, officials said yesterday, as the authorities continue to crack down on militant outfits a year after the attack.

The three women were arrested late on Saturday, following a failed suicide bombing after their hideout was raided in western Kushtia district's Bheramara town, 228km from the capital Dhaka.

Local police chief Nur Hossain Khandker told Agence France- Presse that one of the suspects, wearing a suicide bomb vest, tried to blow herself up as she rushed towards the authorities after being asked to surrender.

"She failed and we arrested her without any harm. Later she said she couldn't find the trigger, or else, there would have been many casualties," Mr Khandker said.

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Kushtia police chief Mehedi Hasan said the women were members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a local group blamed for the Holey bakery attack in Dhaka's diplomatic zone where militants killed 22 people last July.

Police said one of the women, Tithi Khatun, 30, is the wife of acting JMB chief Ayyub Bacchu, who is on the run and who allegedly visited the hideout frequently.

"We conducted a clean sweep operation inside the den and found 10kg of gunpowder, two armed (suicide) vests and a loaded pistol," Mr Khandker said.

"Two children were also rescued from the hideout," he added.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a spate of extremist violence in recent years, with dozens of foreigners, secular writers, atheist activists and members of religious minorities killed.

Many of those attacks, including the cafe carnage, were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group or Al-Qaeda but the secular government of Ms Sheikh Hasina denies the claims, blaming home-grown militants.

However, since the cafe attack, the authorities have gunned down nearly 70 Islamist extremists across the country and arrested scores.

A number of events were held in Dhaka on Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of the Holey bakery attack.

The cafe building was opened to allow mourners to pay respects to the victims, most of whom were foreign nationals. Mourners, including politicians and foreign diplomats, gathered at the scene of the massacre, placed wreaths and offered prayers for the victims.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2017, with the headline 'Bangladesh arrests three female militants'. Print Edition | Subscribe