Bangladesh arrests 37 suspected Islamist militants in crackdown amid spate of murders

Bangladeshi men form a human chain in protest against the killing of Hindu monastery worker Nitya Ranjan Pandey, who was hacked to death in Pabna on June 10, 2016.
Bangladeshi men form a human chain in protest against the killing of Hindu monastery worker Nitya Ranjan Pandey, who was hacked to death in Pabna on June 10, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh police have arrested 37 suspected Islamist militants as part of a nationwide crackdown, an official said on Saturday (June 11), following a spate of murders of minorities and secular activists.

Police officials said more than 1,000 people were detained after the anti-militant drive was launched across the Muslim-majority country on Friday, although that number included regular arrests.

"In the last 24 hours, 37 Islamist militants were arrested. They included 27 members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)," Mr A.K.M Shahidur Rahman, the deputy police inspector-general, told AFP. "Police have also seized one weapon, explosives and ammunition from their possession."

 
 

Nine members of the JMB, a banned militant outfit, were arrested in Rajshahi, Mr Shariful Islam, a police inspector in the north-western district, told AFP.

Suspected Islamists have carried out several attacks in Rajshahi in recent months, including the killing of a liberal professor in April.

The police have blamed the JMB for most of the murders of minorities and secular activists in the last three years, which have seen nearly 50 people brutally killed.

The murders have spiked in recent weeks, with a gruesome wave of killings that has spanned from the capital Dhaka to remote parts of the north and coastal south.

On Friday, a Hindu monastery worker was hacked to death in the northwestern district of Pabna.

Also this week, an elderly Hindu priest was found nearly decapitated in a rice field, a Christian grocer was hacked to death near a church and the wife of an anti-terrorism officer was stabbed and shot.

Most of the latest attacks have been claimed either by the Islamic State group or by a South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has, however, blamed homegrown Islamists for the attacks, rejecting claims of responsibility from the international jihadist groups.

The JMB is one of the main domestic militant outfits suspected of the murders, with police shooting dead five members of the group since Tuesday.