Bangladesh sentences 6 militants to death for robbery deaths

AP News
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Posted: May 31, 2016 7:38 AM

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A court in Bangladesh's capital on Tuesday sentenced to death six militants from a pair of banned Islamist groups for the killing of seven people during a bank robbery last year.

The court also sentenced three other militants from the groups to prison terms ranging from three years to life. Two other suspects were acquitted.

Both of the groups — Jumataul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, and Ansarullah Bangla Team — are banned in Bangladesh.

Police said that all of the suspects were originally members of JMB, but that some of them later became members of the new group Ansarullah Bangla Team, which has been blamed by Bangladeshi authorities for attacks and killings of liberal intellectuals and bloggers in recent months.

The men had been charged with throwing bombs and attacking bank officials, customers and bystanders with sharp weapons during an April 2015 bank robbery in the Ashulia industrial zone, just outside Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.

Police and prosecution documents said that the men were robbing the bank to fund their militant activities.

Public Prosecutor Khandker Abdul Mannan said the men could appeal the verdict to a higher court.

JMB was founded in 1998 by Shaikh Abdur Rahman, a religious teacher who was educated in Saudi Arabia.

In 2005, the group exploded about 500 homemade bombs at nearly 300 locations almost simultaneously across Bangladesh as part of a campaign demanding the introduction of Shariah religious law. Later, it continued its violent campaign by attacking and killing judges and police, and threatening journalists and women without veils.

The group created a large network of supporters; some government officials say it has as many as 10,000 members.

In 2005, six of JMB's leaders, including Rahman, were arrested and the group was banned. The six were hanged in 2007 after being convicted in the killings of two judges.

However, JMB remains active and has attempted to regroup. Dabiq, a magazine of the Islamic State group, has claimed that Rahman was the founder of the jihadi movement in Bangladesh.