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Bangladesh arrests 10 Islamist extremists as raids continue


Bangladesh police Monday widened a sweeping crackdown against Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants, arresting at least 10 suspected extremists and seizing weapons, suicide vests and literature on Islamic jihad.

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) counter-terrorism force detained the suspects in a second day of raids targeting the homegrown extremist outfit blamed for numerous atrocities, including a cafe siege that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners.

Among those arrested was Shaykh Mamunur Rashid, an Islamic boarding school teacher in the capital Dhaka who is accused of translating extremist literature to “motivate” young recruits, said RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan.

“He misinterpreted the Koran and was working on spreading propaganda across the country,” Khan told reporters, referring to the 34-year-old madrassa teacher.

Six youths aged between 19 and 23 were also detained in Dhaka with USB sticks containing militant information. They were planning “the murders of progressive Islamic scholars who protest extremism”, said police spokesman Masudur Rahman.

In the northwestern district of Rajshahi, police raided an extremist hideout and seized two suicide vests and guns, local police chief Khurshid Hossain told AFP. Three suspects were arrested at the scene.

“We cannot yet confirm whether there are more explosives inside the house. Our experts will sweep the premises soon,” said Hossain.

The arrests come a day after RAB units captured Imran Ahmed, 37, a garment factory owner and an alleged key decision-maker in JMB.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a spate of Islamist violence in recent years, with dozens of foreigners, secular writers, atheist activists and members of religious minorities killed.

The Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks including the Dhaka cafe siege.

But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has denied their involvement and blamed local groups like JMB for the carnage.

Since the cafe attack, security agencies have killed some 70 militants in raids and shootouts. Among them was a Bangladeshi-origin Canadian said to be the head of a new JMB faction and the mastermind of the cafe attack.

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