DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh police have arrested three female members of an Islamist extremist group blamed for the deadly Dhaka cafe siege, officials said Sunday (July 2), as authorities continue to crack down on militant outfits a year after the attack.
The three women were arrested late 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 AFP that one of the suspects wearing a suicide bomb vest tried to blow herself up as she rushed towards 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," Khandker said.
Kushtia police chief Mehedi Hasan said the women were members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a local group blamed for the 2016 Holey bakery attack in Dhaka's diplomatic zone where militants killed 22 people.
Police said one of the women, Tithi Khatun, 30, is the wife of acting JMB chief Ayyub Bacchu who is on the run and allegedly visited the hideout frequently.
"We conducted a clean sweep operation inside the den and found 10 kilos of gunpowder, two armed (suicide) vests and a loaded pistol," Khandker said.
"Two minor 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, including the cafe carnage, were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group or Al-Qaeda but the secular government of Sheikh Hasina denies the claims, blaming home-grown militants.
However, since the cafe attack, authorities have gunned down nearly 70 Islamist extremists across the country and arrested scores.