A top militant leader associated with banned Islamist group Jamaat-ul- Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) was on Tuesday arrested in Bangladesh where over 11,600 have been detained in a nationwide crackdown to halt a spate of deadly attacks on minorities and secular writers in the Muslim-majority nation.
The 60-year-old extremist, identified as Garibullah Akand, was arrested in Muktagachha of northern Mymensingh area along with 26 suspected militants, police said.
Akand was a close associate of JMB’s executed leader Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai, Muktagachha police station’s chief Fazlul Karim said.
Akandh was being looked for a number of murder and terrorist charges as an associate of Bangla Bhai, who was executed in 2007 after trial along with three other top leaders of the militant outfit.
The arrest was made as police in the capital Dhaka said their detectives nabbed two more militants belonging to banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team.
Police said security forces overnight detained 3,115 more people, claiming 26 of them being militants, as part of the nationwide anti-militant drive aimed at stopping the killings, taking the total number of arrests to 11,648.
“If tallied the number of people detained in the crackdown since Thursday midnight stands at 11,648. Around 145 among them are suspected militants mostly belonging to JMB,” a police headquarters spokesman said.
Authorities in Bangladesh are under mounting international pressure to halt the violence, which in the past three years have claimed nearly 50 people - Hindus, Chiristians and secular bloggers - many of them by machete-wielding attackers.
Though most of the attacks were claimed by the Islamic State or its affiliates and other similar extremist groups, the Bangladesh government has repeatedly dismissed the claims and said the attacks were carried out by homegrown outfits linked to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to catch “each and every killer”.
She has accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist party ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, of orchestrating the killings to destabilise the country.
However, BNP accused the government of using the crackdown to suppress political dissent.
The BNP claimed that more than 2,000 of its leaders and activists have been arrested during the anti-militancy drive.