Bangladeshi police have killed eleven suspected militants in three separate raids in an ongoing crackdown on Islamists. The suspects were members of the banned group that Dhaka blamed for a deadly café attack in July.
The South Asian country's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) killed nine suspects in the district of Gazipur, 30 kilometers north of Dhaka. The other two were gunned down in Tangail, which is located on the northwest of the capital, Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told reporters on Saturday.
The government said the militants were members of the outlawed Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) group which it holds responsible for the killings in a Dhaka restaurant on July 1. The attack left 20 people dead, including 17 foreigners.
A local commander of the JMB, identified as Akash, was among the dead. The RAB spokesman, Mufti Mahmud Khan, said that Akash had taken over the JMB's leadership after Tamim Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi-Canadian working for "Islamic State," was killed in a raid in August.
Officials said the raids began Saturday morning after the police received information that the militants were hiding in the area. The security forces asked the suspects to surrender but they refused and opened fire on them.
In the past few months, Bangladeshi authorities have arrested thousands of people as part of a sweeping crackdown on the country's Islamists. The rights groups, however, accuse the government of arbitrarily arresting political opponents and using the terrorism pretext to tighten its control.
Scores of people have been killed in the majority Muslim country by jihadists over the past three years, police say. The South Asian country, which appears to be at a crossroads in its efforts to preserve the secular nature of the state, is witnessing an unprecedented surge in violence. Islamists continue to target secular bloggers and activists.
shs/rc (AP, dpa)