Detectives in the Bangladesh capital on Thursday announced the arrest of a suspected member of the banned Ansarullah Bangla Team for his alleged involvement in an attack on a secular publisher last year.
Police produced Mohammad Sumon Hossain, who has several aliases such as Shihab, Sakib and Saiful, before journalists in the detective branch headquarters in Dhaka amid a nationwide crackdown on militants.
Hossain was arrested on Wednesday night from near Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said Monirul Islam, head of a police counter-terrorism unit. He said Hossain directly took part in the attack on publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul last October because he had published books by a prominent Bangladeshi-American writer who promoted atheism.
Tutul survived the attack in his office in Dhaka. Two of his friends were seriously injured.
The police official said Hossain was an employee of a private company in the port city of Chittagong. No other details were released about him.
Islam said detectives learnt about Hossain from two other suspected militants who were arrested earlier this week from Kamrangir Char area near Dhaka. “They gave us many vital information and we acted on the basis of that,” he said.
Hossain was in a list of suspected militants allegedly involved in such attacks that was announced by the Dhaka Metropolitan Police last month. Police also announced a bounty of 200,000 takas for the capture of Hossain.
On the day of the attack on Tutul, another group separately killed another publisher in his office in Dhaka. “We have got information about who led the other group that was involved in the killing of publisher Faisal Arefin Deepan,” the official said.
“Two men, Sharif and Selim, coordinated the attacks on Tutul and Deepan,” he said.
Tutul and Deepan were targeted as they published the works of Bangladeshi-American blogger Avijit Roy, who was hacked to death in Dhaka University campus in February last year. His wife was injured in the attack.
The Ansarullah Bangla Team had claimed responsibility for the blogger killings while another group, Ansar al-Islam, which claimed to be the Bangladesh chapter of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, also issued a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks.
Since last year, atheist bloggers, members of minorities, foreigners and free thinkers from various sections of society have been attacked and killed, and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for many such attacks.
But the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the IS doesn’t have a presence in the country. The government says homegrown terrorists tied to the Jamaat-e-Islami party are behind such attacks.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, a key partner of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) headed by former prime minister Khaleda Zia, has denied these charges.