NEW DELHI (AP) — Security forces in Bangladesh killed at least 11 suspected militants in three separate raids Saturday in an ongoing crackdown against Islamic extremism in the South Asian nation, a top government official said.
The suspects were members of the banned group Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, which the government has blamed for a deadly attack in July at a restaurant in Dhaka, the capital, said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.
The men were killed in operations in the Dhaka suburb of Gazipur and the central district of Tangail, Khan said.
Officials said the raids began Saturday morning based on information that the militants were in the areas.
Security forces asked the militants to surrender, but they refused and began firing, and the security forces fired back, Khan said.
Some firearms, bullets and meat cleavers were found during the raids, said Mufti Mahmud Khan, a spokesman for the Rapid Action Battalion, which was involved in the operations.
Khan said one of the men killed in Gazipur was identified as Akash, a militant who had taken over the JMB's leadership after former leader Tamim Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi Canadian who fought in Syria for the Islamic State group, was killed along with two associates in a raid in August.
Chowdhury was thought to be the top leader of what the security agencies called the "New JMB."
Bangladesh has recently been hit by Islamist extremists, with the July 1 restaurant attack leaving 20 hostages dead, including 17 foreigners. Since that attack, the government has intensified its crackdown on suspected militant groups and killed some top JMB leaders.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the restaurant attack, but authorities have denied that, saying that it was the act of JMB, and that the IS has no presence in the Muslim-majority country.