Bangladeshi detectives arrested the prime suspect in last year’s slaying of a publisher as authorities reinforced efforts to crush radical groups blamed for a recent spike in violence.
Separately, officials of an elite anti-crime agency arrested five more suspected radicals belonging to the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB).
Monirul Islam, chief of a counter-terrorism unit, said on Wednesday that officials arrested Moinul Islam Shamim alias Samir alias Imran during a raid at Tongi near the capital Dhaka on Tuesday night. Police said he belonged to the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), which has claimed responsibility for killing several atheist bloggers.
Police said Shamim admitted during interrogation that the group killed Faisal Arefin Deepan, owner of Jagriti Prokashoni publishing house, for publishing the books of Avijit Roy, a prominent Bangladeshi-American blogger and writer.
Shamim was also a main organiser and trainer for the group, Islam said.
The 24-year-old man looked calm when he was produced before journalists during a news conference in Dhaka on Wednesday. Islam said Shamim used several aliases to dodge security officials.
RAB arrests five Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh members
Meanwhile, members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said on Wednesday they had arrested five suspected JMB members in Tongi area. Rasheduzzaman Rouf, the group’s acting chief for the southern region and a trainer of its women’s wing, was among the arrested men, said RAB spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan.
Rouf studied in Canada and returned to Bangladesh in 2012 and joined the JMB. He belongs to Jhenaidah district, Khan said.
The RAB also arrested Abdul Hye, an imam of a mosque in Chittagong, Shahabuddin, a member of JMB’s suicide squad, and Feroz and Saiful, both small businessmen.
Khan said RAB would take legal action against them after primary interrogation.
Recent spike in attacks by radical groups
In May, police had published photos of six suspected ABT operatives, including Shamim, and announced a bounty for their arrest.
In October last year, unidentified attackers killed Deepan in Dhaka’s Aziz Super Market. The attackers used meat cleavers to kill him, and police had found his body inside his small office.
On the same day, another publisher, Ahmed Rashid Tutul, was attacked in his office in Lalmatia area by another group of radicals. Tutul and two friends were injured but all three survived.
Avijit Roy, the son of a former professor of Dhaka University, was also hacked to death in February 2015 while walking with his wife on the campus. The ABT had claimed responsibility for that attack.
Another radical group, Ansar al-Islam, which claims to be the Bangladesh chapter of al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, had issued a statement to media houses claiming responsibility for the attacks on Deepan and Tutul, according to SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi groups.
Police have made some arrests for the attacks on Roy and Tutul, and the cases are still under investigation.
Bangladesh experienced its deadliest terror attack on July 1 when a group of young men stormed an upscale restaurant in Dhaka’s Gulshan area and butchered 20 hostages, including nine Italians, seven Japanese and one Indian. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but the government blamed the assault on the JMB.