DHAKA • Bangladesh has arrested a suspected Muslim extremist who allegedly supplied weapons and explosives for a 2016 siege that killed 22 hostages.
Eighteen foreigners were among those shot and hacked to death in the 10-hour stand-off at the Holey Artisan Bakery - an upmarket cafe in Dhaka - before commandos stormed the building and rescued about two dozen people.
The extremist, Mamunur Rashid, 30, was a key "decision-maker" in Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a banned home-grown militant outfit blamed for the attack.
Rashid was arrested outside the capital Dhaka while travelling on a bus, Mufti Mahmud Khan, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion, said yesterday.
Mr Khan said Rashid supplied money, arms, ammunition and explosives for the attack. "He hid in a neighbouring country and tried to reorganise the group. They were also planning to rescue their accomplices from custody," he added.
Rashid, a former computer operator and Islamic seminary student, also provided logistical support to militants involved in several deadly attacks on religious minorities in the country's north, Mr Khan said.
Eight militants went on trial in a court in Dhaka last month for the cafe attack. Mr Khan said Rashid was one of two men charged despite not being present, while the other six were already in custody.
The Holey Artisan Bakery siege fuelled fears over violent Islamist groups in the Muslim-majority nation of 165 million people.
The government launched a crackdown against extremists immediately after the attack, killing nearly 100 alleged extremists, including several top JMB leaders.
The attack marked a violent escalation from a spate of high-profile murders in the country since 2013, with extremists targeting Bangladeshi atheist writers, rights activists, gays, foreigners and religious minorities.
Bangladesh last week banned the release of a film based on the cafe attack, saying it would tarnish the country's image.