The eleven killed including the new leader of a banned group behind a Dhaka cafe massacre. Photograph: (AFP)
Bangladesh's police claimed significant success against the militants after having reduced them to minimal operational strength
Bangladeshi security forces killed eleven members of an Islamist militant group on Saturday blamed for the Dhaka cafe massacre in July.
The eleven militants, believed to be from the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were killed in three separate raids in Gazipur and Tangail, on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka.
"Eleven extremists were killed. They are all members of the neo-JMB (Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh)," interior minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, referring to the outlawed group that killed 22 mostly foreign hostages at the cafe in July.
“We haven’t been able to identify the suspects individually,” said Sanwar Hossain, additional deputy commissioner of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime. One of killed was Akash, who police suspect, had been working as an organiser for the neo JMB. The members were killed in a gunfight at Aparkhola in Gazipur district, just outside Dhaka, after they rejected an offer to surrender.
The operation was followed by another raid on militant hideouts by Bangladesh's Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), in which another four militants were shot. Explosives, AK 22 assault rifles, 7.65mm pistol, Jihadi books and four laptops were recovered during another raid at Gazipur carried out by the Rapid Action Battalion, said Mahiul Islam, a squad commander with the Rapid Action Battalion.
“As of this evening, the total threat level has dropped by 99 percent. They do not have any more operational strength,” Hossain told WION.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during an address to the Hindu community at a Puja Mandop in Dhaka said her government will show no sympathy for terrorism in the country and vowed to clamp down on them.
In August, police killed Tamim Chowdhury, a Canadian citizen of Bangladesh origin who has been heading the neo JMB and was a mastermind behind the July attack at the Dhaka’s upmarket restaurant Holey Artisan Bakery.
The siege at the cafe in Dhaka's posh Gulshan neighbourhood was the deadliest in a series of assaults claimed by Islamist groups which have blighted Bangladesh in the last three years.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, posting photos of the carnage as it happened and pictures of the attackers holding IS flags online.
The home minister told reporters that Syed Ziaul Haque, the leader of another outlawed extremist group called Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) would soon be arrested.
"He is under our surveillance. He'll be arrested anytime," Khan said.
The ABT, also known as Ansar al-Islam, is linked with Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent and has been blamed for a series of murders of atheist and secular bloggers who were critical of Islam.