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Bangladesh troops storm house of Islam militant leader

Rapid Action Battalion swooped on a house after tip-offs that Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh leader was holed up there.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 11:35 IST

Elite Bangladeshi security forces stormed a house on Wednesday, where they believed they had cornered the fugitive leader of an Islamic militant group who was behind a deadly spate of nationwide bombings.

Television stations showed two handcuffed burqa-clad women being escorted from a house in the northeastern city of Sylhet at gunpoint. Each woman was carrying a small child, and was accompanied by a young boy.

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) backed up by hundreds of police and paramilitaries swooped on the house after a tip-off that Shaikh Abdur Rahman, leader of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), was holed up there.

"We have stormed the house after throwing tear gas shells inside. We arrested six people including one woman who we believe is the wife of Shaikh Abdur Rahman, but we have not yet been able to arrest him," assistant superintendent of Sylhet police Gias Uddin said.

Earlier, police said they were determined to arrest and prosecute Rahman for his part in the bombings. "Our aim is to capture him alive," said RAB spokesman Commander Mashuk Hassan.

Marksmen were posted on the roofs of surrounding buildings and an area of eight square kilometres (3.2 miles) had been cordoned off.

Thousands of police, paramilitary troops and RAB personnel have been searching for Rahman and members of his group for months.

Officers using loudhailers urged Rahman to give himself up earlier Wednesday. A man claiming to be Rahman shouted back urging the officers to join him in his battle to establish Islamic laws in the country, mayor of the city Badruddin Ahmed Kamran said.

"Another man and a woman shouted at us threatening that they would die for Allah," he added.

Police say Rahman is the mastermind behind a series of blasts and suicide bombings since last August 17, when more than 400 explosive devices were detonated almost simultaneously in towns and cities across the country.

At least 28 people including four suicide bombers have been killed in the attacks.

Sylhet city police chief Ansaruddin Khan Pathan said Rahman had threatened to blow himself up if security forces stormed the house.

"He told us from his house that he would not surrender to those who abide by man-made law. He wants Allah's law in the country. We could hear him preaching in the house throughout the night," Pathan said.

In December police arrested the group's military head and chief coordinator of the suicide bombings at a hideout in Dhaka.

Rahman, who fought in the Afghan war after graduating from Medina University in Saudi Arabia, formed JMB in the late 1990s. Last month he was sentenced in absentia to 40 years in jail for abetting the murders of the two judges.

First Published: Mar 01, 2006 14:16 IST