Dhaka (AFP) – Bangladeshi police said Wednesday they have arrested two members of a banned domestic Islamist militant group, days after blaming it for the murder of an online secular activist.
Police said they detained two members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) on Tuesday night after storming a flat in Dhaka’s Mohammadpur neighbourhood, which was used by the group as militant training centre and bomb-making factory.
They did not say whether the arrests were in relation to the murder of Nazimuddin Samad, a law student who was killed on the streets of Dhaka last week after criticising Islamism in Facebook posts.
“Gunfire was exchanged between detective police and members of ABT during the operation. One police personnel was seriously injured,” Dhaka Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Police later raided another hideout of the group and “seized a large quantity of bombs and bomb-making materials”, it said.
The ABT, which was outlawed last year, has been blamed for a number of murders of secular bloggers since 2013, with police on Tuesday saying they suspected the group of being behind Samad’s death.
Eight ABT members, including a top cleric who is said to have founded the group, were convicted late last year for the murder of atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013.
The recent string of murders has sparked outrage at home and abroad, with international groups demanding that the secular government must protect freedom of speech in the Muslim-majority country.
Ansar al-Islam, a Bangladesh branch of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, last week claimed responsibility for 26-year-old Samad’s murder, according to US monitoring group SITE.