Bangladesh jails 14 Islamists over 2005 blasts

People pay their respects with flowers in front of the newly constructed building where the Holey Artisan Cafe used to be in Gulshan in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 1, 2017.
People pay their respects with flowers in front of the newly constructed building where the Holey Artisan Cafe used to be in Gulshan in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 1, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

DHAKA (AFP) - A Bangladeshi court on Tuesday (Aug 8) jailed 14 Islamist extremists for their roles in a deadly series of coordinated bomb attacks in 2005.

At least two people were killed and hundreds wounded in the blasts orchestrated by the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an outlawed Islamist group also blamed by authorities for last year's deadly attack on a Dhaka cafe.

The court in the central district of Tangail sentenced all 14 accused to 20 years in jail, although only 10 were present, court inspector Anwarul Islam told AFP.

The other four are still on the run.

The JMB set off over 400 bombs across the country in 2005 to press for the introduction of Sharia law in the Muslim-majority but officially secular country.

It later bombed a series of cultural and political venues, including courts, killing around 30 people including several judges.

That led to a massive crackdown by the security forces in which JMB leaders were arrested. Many have since been tried and executed for their crimes.

The Bangladesh government blames the JMB for a series of attacks in recent years on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities.

In the deadliest of these attacks, five gunmen stormed an upscale Dhaka cafe in July 2016, killing 22 people including 18 foreigners.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group claimed responsibility for the attack, but police and the government blamed JMB for the carnage, discounting suggestions that ISIS had a foothold in Bangladesh.