DHAKA • Bangladeshi police shot dead an extremist leader suspected in a series of recent killings targeting foreigners and religious minorities, an official said.
Nazrul Islam, 28, was killed on Tuesday in a shoot-out with police, who said he had been involved in at least 11 murders and two other attempted murders and was a senior leader of the banned group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Dhaka police described Islam, also known as Bike Hasan, as a "top JMB terrorist" and said they recovered a pistol and bullets from the site of the gunfight.
Bangladesh blames the JMB for a recent wave of killings that have raised fears over the safety of religious minorities in the country.
"He was shot dead during a gunfight at Mahendra Crossing in Rajshahi city early on Tuesday morning when we raided the area," the city's police commissioner Shafiqul Islam told AFP yesterday.
"Later we learnt that the person killed in the raid was the notorious Bike Hasan."
The militant earned the nickname for his skills on the motorbikes that the men behind the wave of killings have frequently used to make a quick getaway, Mr Shafiqul said.
"It's a major success in our ongoing drive against extremists," he added.
Police suspect Nazrul Islam of involvement in the murder of at least five Hindu men as well as a Japanese farmer who was shot dead in northern Bangladesh last year.
He is also accused of the killings of a liberal university professor, a leader of the minority Sufi faith and a Christian grocer.
The Bangladeshi authorities are under pressure to crack down on extremism in the world's third-largest Muslim-majority nation after a recent increase in gruesome attacks.
Five gunmen stormed an upscale cafe in the capital Dhaka on July 1, killing 20 mainly foreign hostages and two police officers in Bangladesh's deadliest single militant attack in recent years.
Police said the five were members of a new faction of the JMB led by a Canadian of Bangladeshi origin and whose members, many drawn from rich families, had vowed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.
ISIS has said the five cafe gunmen were its soldiers. It released photos of the carnage and the attackers posing with their black flags hours before commandos ended the siege.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for most of the 11 murders that Nazrul Islam was accused of.
Police reject that claim and say the group has no presence in the country.