B’desh arrests 8,500 in anti-militant crackdown

DHAKA: Over 8,500 people, including 119 suspected militants, have been arrested in Bangladesh, police said on Monday as they intensified their nationwide crackdown on extremists to halt a spate of deadly attacks on minorities and secular writers in the Muslim-majority nation.
“During the anti-crime clampdown we have arrested 8,569 people and of them 119 are suspected militants,” Dhaka Police Headquarters spokesman AKM Quamrul Ahsan told reporters.
On the third day of the crackdown by Bangladesh authorities, 3,245 people were arrested until this morning. Of them, 34 were suspected militants, the spokesman said. During the past two days over 5,300 criminal suspects, including 85 militants, had been arrested. Most of the suspects belonged to banned outfits like Jagrota Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) – one of two local groups blamed for most of the recent killings – or Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).
The arrests were made as part of a week-long anti-militant drive launched after a high-level meeting held by Inspector General AKM Shahidul Hoque last week. It involved the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh and the elite Rapid Action Battalion.
Bangladesh has been witnessing a string of brutal attacks by Islamists. Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Indian Peninsula have claimed some of the attacks but the government denies the presence of these groups in Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Friday told a meeting of her ruling Awami League party that police would stamp out the violence and vowed to catch “each and every killer”.
The government attributes the murders to home-grown militant outfits like JMB, saying key-opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e- Islami were patronising the attacks under an orchestrated plot against the government.