Bangladesh says kills military chief of banned Islamist group

Bangladesh policemen stand guard in front of the Supreme Court during a strike.
Bangladesh policemen stand guard in front of the Supreme Court during a strike.PHOTO: EPA

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police commandos killed the suspected military chief of a banned Islamist group in a shootout in the capital, a police commissioner said on Thursday (Nov 26), as security forces step up a hunt for militants behind a spate of attacks.

Tensions are rising in the Muslim majority country since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched a crackdown on militant Islam, putting several leaders on trial for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence.

The militant groups, on the other hand, have vowed to convert Bangladesh into a sharia-based state.

Police conducted a raid in the Mirpur area of the capital Dhaka late on Wednesday, touching off a brief gunbattle in which Al Bani, identified as the head of the military wing of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, was killed.

Police joint commissioner Monirul Islam said Al Bani was the main suspect behind last month's rare bombing of a Shi'ite shrine that left two people dead and wounded dozens.

Five other members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen were picked up from the raid and paraded before reporters on Thursday.

"They were involved in various subversive activities including attacks on a police checkpoint and Shi'ite gatherings during Ashura," Islam said as the men were brought out in handcuffs.

Two foreigners, four secular writers and publisher have been killed in attacks this year, some of which have been claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The government rejects those claims and says local militants are involved in the killings. Critics say the government is whipping up a climate of fear to go after its political rivals.