1600 detained by Bangladesh authorities in bid to end attacks

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Over 8,500 people, including 119 suspected militants, have been arrested in Bangladesh, police said today as they intensified their nationwide crackdown on extremists to halt a spate of deadly attacks on minorities and secular writers in the Muslim-majority nation.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, ordered a crackdown on extremist violence after at least 40 people, notably secularists and leaders of religious minorities, have been killed.

Police said that two home-grown militant groups-Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Ansarullah Bangla Team-were behind the attacks as part of their campaign to impose strict Islamic law on Bangladesh, whose population of 160 million are mostly moderate Muslims.

The attacks since past year, which has left more than 30 people dead, has put Bangladesh under a global spotlight for failing to prevent such attacks.

Only 37 of them are suspected to be radical Islamist militants, according to police spokesman Kamrul Islam. The crackdown is expected to last at least one week. Ms Hasina has accused the opposition Bangladesh Naionalist Party (BNP) and the country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami of orchestrating the attacks after the blockade failed to topple her government.

He, however, could not provide any others details on the militants, but said a firearm, 500 grams of gunpowder and 15 crude bombs have been seized.

"Faruk was previously arrested in 2012 and went out on bail".

None of those arrested is believed to be a high-level operator who might have organized or ordered attacks, police said.

The JMB has been blamed for bomb attacks and members of the group have been detained in relation to the recent murder of a Hindu priest. Among others murdered in recent weeks are an elderly Hindu priest, a Christian grocer and a liberal academic. The killing Friday of the Hindu monastery worker in northern Bangladesh was also claimed by ISIS.

Analysts say that as Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria and its finances get drained, it may be trying to build affiliates in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Bangladesh for jihadists to launch attacks locally and cheaply.

"We've arrested 3,245 people including 34 militants on the third day of the nationwide anti-militant drive", deputy inspector general AKM Shahidur Rahman said.

'They are arresting the persons already facing certain allegations, ' he was quoted in a local newspaper as saying in Chittagong city.



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