Bangladesh arrests spiritual leader of militant group

AP News
Posted: Mar 03, 2017 5:09 AM

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh's capital have arrested the spiritual leader of a banned militant group that is responsible for a series of attacks in the South Asian country, an official said Friday.

Maulana Abul Kashem was arrested Thursday night, said Monirul Islam, chief of the police Counterterrorism and Transnational Crimes Unit. Kashem was a teacher at an Islamic school in northern Bangladesh and was acting as chief of a faction of the Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, Islam said.

Police say Kashem played a key role in a July 2016 attack in which 17 foreigners were killed when five militants stormed a restaurant in Dhaka's diplomatic zone. Kashem was allegedly connected with Tamim Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-born Canadian who was killed in a raid in August. Police said Chowdhury was the main planner of the group.

Some 40 suspects have been killed since July in a crackdown on militants ordered by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the July attack, but the government blamed the JMB.

Dozens of atheists, liberal writers, bloggers and publishers as well as members of minority communities and foreigners have been targeted by militants.