An Islamist militant suspected of attacking a publisher last year has been arrested, Bangladesh police said today, in what they described as an important breakthrough in their investigations into a spate of horrific attacks.
Suman Hossain Patowari, 20, was arrested in Dhaka late Wednesday over a brutal attack that wounded publisher Ahmedur Rashid Tutul and two others at his office in the capital in October.
The arrest comes amid a nationwide police anti-militant crackdown that has seen more than 11,000 people, including 176 suspected Islamist militants, detained since Friday.
Police said Patowari belonged to banned Bangladesh militant outfit, Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT).
"He admitted he himself hacked publisher Tutul three times during the attack," said Monirul Islam, who leads the police`s counter-terrorism unit.
Islam told reporters that the arrest of Patowari represented "an important breakthrough" in smashing the leadership of the ABT, a group suspected of carrying out several attacks.
Three assailants wielding machetes and meat cleavers attacked Tutul, together with a secular blogger and a poet, at his publishing firm in the capital, leaving them in a pool of blood.
Tutul had published books by a controversial Bangladeshi-American atheist writer Avijit Roy, who was murdered outside a book fair earlier in the year.
On the same day Tutul was attacked, another secular publisher was slaughtered at his office near Dhaka University.
A group named Ansar al-Islam, which claims to be a Bangladesh branch of the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), claimed responsibility for both attacks.
However in a new development, police said Thursday that ABT and Ansar al-Islam were the same outfit.
"Ansar al-Islam and Ansarullah Bangla Team are the same people," Dhaka police spokesman Masudur Rahman said.
Moreover, officers said that neither ABT nor Ansar al-Islam had any proven link to the international jihadist network al-Qaeda.
Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of killings of religious minorities and secular and liberal activists that have spiked in recent weeks.
On Wednesday a Hindu lecturer was left seriously wounded after being attacked in a southern district.
Earlier this month, an elderly Hindu priest was found nearly decapitated in a rice field, a Hindu monastery worker was hacked to death and a Christian grocer was murdered near a church.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to catch "each and every killer" as her government comes under mounting international pressure to end the attacks.
Nearly 50 people have been murdered over the past three years.
The Islamic State group and AQIS have claimed responsibility for many of the murders. But the police and the government say international jihadist groups have no presence in the country.