Top Bangladesh army officer dies from IS-claimed blast

Representative image: A security personnel directs people to walk on different way in front of a makeshift camp of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) after an unidentified suicide bomber died in the camp in Dhaka, Bangladesh, March 17, 2017. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Dhaka, Dhaka Division, Bangladesh Mar 31, 2017, 03.27 AM (IST)

A senior army officer who headed the intelligence wing of Bangladesh's elite security force died Friday, days after he was injured in a bomb attack claimed by the Islamic State group.

Lieutenant Colonel Abul Kalam Azad was on life support and flown to Singapore on Sunday a day after he was critically injured in an explosion near a militant hideout. 

He was flown back to Dhaka Wednesday and admitted to a military hospital after his condition remained unchanged. 

"He died very early on Friday," Mizanur Rahman Bhuiyan, a spokesman of the Rapid Action Battalion told AFP. 

Bangladesh prides itself on being a mainly moderate Muslim country. But that perception has been damaged by a series of gruesome killings of atheist bloggers, foreigners and religious minorities.

Colonel Azad, 41, was the intelligence director of the RAB, which has been at the forefront of Bangladesh's fight against Islamist militancy. 

He was the highest ranked military officer to have been killed in the country's more than a decade-long fight against Islamist extremism. 

On Saturday six people including two police officers were killed in twin explosions that targeted a crowd and security officers who were watching army commandos storming an Islamist hideout in the northeastern city of Sylhet. 

IS took credit for the attack while the Bangladeshi government and police blamed the blast on a homegrown Islamist militant outfit. 

About a dozen more police and security officers were also injured in the attack. Army commandos said they later shot dead four Islamist extremists including one of their top leaders after a three-day gunfight. 

On Thursday police's counter-terrorism officers and SWAT raided another Islamist hideout in a village in the northeast and found bodies of up to eight people. Police believed they blew themselves up in an explosion to avoid being arrested.

There has been a resurgence of extremist attacks in recent weeks in the Muslim-majority nation of 160 million after a relative lull since five IS-linked gunmen killed 22 people including 18 foreign hostages at a Dhaka cafe on July 1.

Since the cafe attack, security forces have launched a nationwide crackdown on Islamist extremist groups, killing around 60 suspected militants.