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Bangladesh arrests over 3,000, Hasina vows no mercy to those behind killings

Bangladesh arrests over 3,000, Hasina vows no mercy to those behind killings

Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday vowed to hunt down those behind the recent targeted killings of bloggers and minorities as police detained over 3,000 people, including 37 suspected Islamists, on the first day of a nationwide anti-terrorist drive.

"Where will they hide in Bangladesh," Hasina asked during a meeting of the Awami League's Working Committee meeting, and warned: "No one will get away".

"It's not a tough task to find them. They will be brought to justice," Hasina told the meeting at her official residence, the Gana Bhaban.

"It's just a matter of time," added the Awami League chief.

Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said the week-long drive was aimed at dismantling all terrorist outfits and their networks in the country.

On Friday, a Hindu monastery worker was hacked to death in Pabna district.

Alamgir Kabir, the district's police chief, said the motive behind the killing was not yet known.

Of the 3,192 arrested, 1,861 were held after arrest warrants were issued by court, police said in a media release on Saturday.

The decision to crack down on Islamist sympathisers was taken on Thursday, five days after the murder of decorated police officer Babul Aktar’s wife Mahmuda Aktar Mitu in Chittagong.

Mahmuda’s murder was strikingly similar to the attacks carried out by suspected Islamist militants on secular writers, bloggers, online activists and people of different religious views.

Bangladesh has been facing a surge in violent attacks in recent months.

A number of secular writers, bloggers and publishers were killed or seriously injured in attacks carried out by extremists since 2013.

The wave of suspected militant attacks since last year, which has left more than 30 dead, has put Bangladesh in the spotlight in the global arena.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for 21 of the attacks while Al Qaeda has claimed most of the rest, according to monitoring group SITE Intelligence.

The government, however, denies the presence of the groups in Bangladesh and has blamed "home-grown" militants for the killings.

Condemning the killings in the name of religion, Hasina said that Islam does not permit taking anyone's life.

"What kind of religious practice is this killing of innocent people," she asked, adding that the attacks were aimed at spoiling religious harmony in Bangladesh.

She once again blamed the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and its ally the Jamaat-e-Islami for the recent killings.

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