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Bangladesh arrests three Islamist militants

Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion says it has detained three suspected militants

Bangladesh police Sunday arrested three suspected Islamist extremists and seized weapons and explosives in a raid targeting a homegrown group accused of orchestrating a string of deadly attacks.

The trio were detained in a pre-dawn raid at a mango plantation in the northwestern district of Chapai Nawabganj.

Commander Abdullah al Murad, from the Rapid Action Battalion, said the men were from the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a group blamed for a cafe siege in Dhaka last year that left 22 people dead, including 18 foreigners.

“We had information that around 14 to 15 JMB men were having a secret meeting deep inside the plantation. We conducted a raid early in the morning and managed to round up three of them,” he told AFP, adding the men would be charged with terrorism offences.

“We have recovered a semi-automatic pistol, bullets, over a kilo of explosive powder and jihadi books in their possession.”

Since the cafe attack in July 2016, Bangladesh has killed nearly 70 accused militants in raids and shootouts aimed at decapitating the JMB and its leadership.

But the group remains active, with police warning of new cells and plots for attacks in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority nation of 160 million.

The JMB rose to notoriety in the early 2000s with a string of bomb attacks. Five senior figures were executed on charges of murder, genocide, torture and rape related to those attacks.

In recent years Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government has blamed the JMB for a series of attacks on foreigners, atheist bloggers, rights activists and religious minorities.

The most prominent of these, the massacre of hostages at the upmarket Holey cafe, was claimed by the Islamic State group. But Hasina blamed the JMB for the carnage and denied the global extremist group had a foothold in Bangladesh.

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