5 suspected extremists arrested in Bangladesh


Bangladesh’s elite security force said Wednesday it had arrested five suspected members of a banned militant outfit, which has been blamed for a series of recent deadly attacks, in twin raids in Dhaka.

The Rapid Action Battalion said it had stormed two hideouts on Dhaka’s outskirts and arrested five members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), including one of the group’s leaders who used to study in Canada.

“They include Rasheduzzaman who took over as the JMB’s regional chief recently. He studied at a Canadian university between 2006-2012,” RAB spokesperson Mufti Mahmud Khan.

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Khan told a foreign media agency that Rasheduzzaman, who was tasked with organising the JMB’s women’s wing, was a close associate of Mahmudul Hasan, who was the JMB southern regional head before he was arrested in July. Officers seized explosives and arms from the hideouts, he added.

Bangladesh’s government has blamed the JMB for the July 1 attack on an upmarket cafe in the capital Dhaka’s Gulshan neighbourhood in which 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, were killed along with two policemen.

Police have said Tamim Chowdhury, another senior JMB figure and a Bangladesh origin Canadian citizen, masterminded the Gulshan siege and a deadly attack on Bangladesh’s largest Eid congregation a few days later. Khan, however, could not say whether Rasheduzzaman was a citizen of Canada.

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The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Gulshan attack, releasing photos from inside the cafe during the siege and of the five men who carried out the deadly assault and were shot dead at its finale.

Bangladeshi authorities have rejected the claim, saying international militant networks have no presence in the world’s third-largest Muslim-majority nation.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a deadly wave of attacks in the last three years, including on foreigners, rights activists and members of the country’s religious minorities.

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Both IS and a branch of Al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for many of the attacks. Critics say Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s administration is in denial about the nature of the threat posed by extremists and accuse her of trying to exploit the attacks to demonise her domestic opponents.