June 11, 2016

Bangladesh Detains Several Thousand in Drive Against Islamist Radicals (Two reports from The Associated Press)

Bangladesh Detains 1,600 in Drive Against Islamist Radicals

By The Associated Press

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Jun 11, 2016, 6:44 AM ET

Authorities have rounded up about 1,600 criminal suspects, including a few dozen believed to be Islamist radicals, in a nationwide crackdown aimed at halting a wave of brutal attacks on minorities and activists in Bangladesh, police said Saturday.

The attacks — including two Hindus in the last week — have alarmed the international community and raised questions about whether Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's secular government can maintain security for minorities in the Sunni Muslim-majority country.

Police and paramilitary soldiers fanned out across the country Thursday night, raiding suspected militant hideouts and detaining about 1,600 people by Friday night, police said.

The majority of those detained, however, are described as petty criminals. Only 37 of them are suspected to be radical Islamist militants, according to police spokesman Kamrul Islam. Those include three charged with alleged membership in the banned militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh.

None of those arrested is believed to be a high-level operator who might have organized or ordered attacks, police said. All the detainees are being held in jail.

Hasina's government has faced criticism for failing to prosecute suspects for at least 18 killings carried out over the past two years. Victims include atheist bloggers, foreign aid workers, university professors, gay rights activists and religious minorities including Hindus, Christians and Shiite Muslims.

Hasina had announced the anti-militancy campaign after the wife of a police superintendent was shot and stabbed to death on June 5 as she was waiting with her son at a bus stop. The victim had been an ardent campaigner against Islamist militants, and her murder stunned the country's establishment, many of whom considered the victim as one of their own.

Speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, Hasina vowed to root out radicals bent on spreading terror and violence in a bid to restore the country to Islamic rule.

"If they think they could turn Bangladesh upside down, they are wrong," she said. "They will be exposed to justice in the soil of Bangladesh and their patrons will also not be spared."

The attacks have followed a pattern: A group of young men wielding knives or machetes approach their victim as his or her guard is down, perhaps while strolling down the street or relaxing at home. The attackers spew hateful language, then hack and stab at the victim before disappearing, often without a trace. Many victims are killed with a machete blow to the back of the neck.

Authorities have arrested some suspects in some of the 18 attacks, mostly low-level operatives accused of following orders to carry out attacks, but none has been prosecuted. Police have said they are waiting until investigations are complete before taking any suspects to court.

Amnesty International has criticized the government for inaction, saying it is creating a culture of impunity. It also said authorities are failing to address increasing numbers of reports of people receiving threats.

"The brazen announcement by violent groups that they will continue targeting those they perceive as 'insulting Islam' should shake the Bangladeshi authorities out of their complacency," Champa Patel, the right's group's director in South Asia, said in a statement. "Ignoring the problem is not a solution. The authorities must categorically condemn these killings, carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial and transparent investigation, deliver justice for the victims, hold the perpetrators accountable, and protect those still under threat."

Nearly all the attacks have been claimed by transnational Islamist extremist groups, including the Islamic State group and various affiliates of al-Qaida. The killing Friday morning of a Hindu ashram worker in northern Bangladesh was also claimed by the IS group, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activity online and cited the Amaq News Agency.

Hasina's government, however, says transnational terror groups have no presence in the South Asian nation of 160 million. It blames the attacks on domestic groups aligned with political opposition parties, though it has presented no evidence of such a campaign and the opposition denies the allegations.

On Friday, the opposition BNP party said it was worried the government campaign against extremists would lead to efforts to suppress opposition parties.

"The crackdown is a strategy which the government earlier used to suppress the people's movement. We fear that they will again oppress the opposition in the name of conducting a crackdown," BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

source URL: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bangladesh-detains-1600-suspected-radicals-end-attacks-39775389

o o o

3,000 arrested in Bangladesh as PM vows to catch killers

By Afp

Published: 11:23 GMT, 11 June 2016 | Updated: 11:23 GMT, 11 June 2016

Bangladesh police have arrested more than 3,000 people in a sweeping nationwide crackdown following a spate of gruesome murders, they said Saturday, as the prime minister vowed to catch "each and every killer".

Those detained include 37 suspected Islamist militants and hundreds of potential criminals who previously had warrants out against them, as well as several hundred ordinary arrests, police said.

Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of brutal killings that have spiked in recent weeks, with religious minorities, secular thinkers and liberal activists the chief targets.
Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of murders of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities that have left more than 40 people dead in the last th...

Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of murders of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities that have left more than 40 people dead in the last three years ©Munir Uz Zaman (AFP)

"We have arrested 3,155 people including 37 Islamist militants as part of the special drive over the last 24 hours," A.K.M Shahidur Rahman, deputy police inspector general told AFP.

"The militants included 27 members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)," he said.

The JMB is one of the main domestic militant outfits blamed by the government, which rejects claims from Islamic State group and a South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda that they are behind the killings.

The country's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told a meeting of her ruling Awami League party Saturday that police would stamp out the violence.

"It may take time, but God willing, we will be able to bring them under control," Hasina told a meeting of her ruling Awami League party on Saturday.

"Where will the criminals hide? Each and every killer will be brought to book as we did after the 2015 mayhem," she said, referring to a deadly transport blockade last year organised by opposition parties.

However, Bangladesh opposition parties immediately accused the police of using the crackdown to suppress political dissent.

"Hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested in the police drive," Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told AFP.

"In the name of the crackdown against Islamist militants, many ordinary and innocent people are being detained."

Hasina has accused the BNP and the country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, of orchestrating the attacks after they failed to topple the government in last year's transport blockade.

- JMB arrests -

Police detained some 350 people in the country's second-largest city of Chittagong and its surrounding areas.

They include one suspect in the murder of Mahmuda Begum, the wife of a top anti-terror police officer who was fatally stabbed and shot last weekend.

Her husband had led several high-profile operations against the JMB in Chittagong and her killing prompted the police to vow to catch her killers.

"We suspect Shahjahan Robin as the prime offender in the murder of (anti-terror officer) Babul Akter's wife," Chittagong police chief Iqbal Bahar told AFP.

In recent days an elderly Hindu priest was found nearly decapitated in a rice field, while a Christian grocer was hacked to death near a church, with Islamic State group claiming responsibility for the killings.

A Hindu monastery worker was found hacked to death Friday in the northwestern district of Pabna.

Police have targeted domestic militant outfits, however, specifically the JMB, with five members of the group shot dead in gunbattles this week.

Nine members of the JMB were arrested in Rajshahi, Shariful Islam, a police inspector in the northwestern district said Saturday.

Several attacks have occurred in the district including the killing of a liberal professor in April.

As well as the arrests, police said they had seized nearly 1,000 motorcycles across the country.

Motorbikes have been used in many of the attacks, with the government recently announcing a ban on motorcyclists carrying more than one passenger.

source URL: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3636456/Bangladesh-arrests-37-Islamist-militants-crackdown.html