Three suspected Islamists were on Saturday arrested in Bangladesh in a pre-dawn raid, as authorities intensified a crackdown on extremists following the brutal killing of American blogger Avijit Roy in the capital.
Acting on a tip-off, elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) conducted a pre-dawn raid at a five-storey building in the northeastern port city of Chittagong and arrested three suspected militants.
“We have seized 30 grenades…it appears they (militants) could have made some 300-400 bombs with the explosives we found at the den,” RAB’s commanding officer in Chittagong Lt Col Mista Uddin told reporters in a primary briefing.
Huge cache of explosives and weapons was seized from their possession, he said, adding that more details, including the identity of the Islamist outfit, would be given at a press conference later.
The raid came two days after Roy known for his critique of religious extremism was hacked to death in the Dhaka University area by machete-wielding assailants who attacked the Bangladeshi-origin writer.
Roy was returning from a book fair with his wife on Thursday evening when the attack occurred. His wife and fellow blogger Rafida Ahmed Banna was seriously injured as she tried to defend him.
The killing that apparently took place right in front of a police barricade put up to restrict vehicular movement on the adjacent road for the ongoing book fair sparked countrywide protests and international condemnation.
A bio-engineer and naturalised US citizen, Roy also earned a repute of being a writer. He was in Dhaka to attend Bangladesh’s annual February or Ekushey Book Fair in memory of 1952 Language Movement martyrs.
Roy’s family and friends said Islamist radicals had been threatening him in recent weeks because he maintained a blog ‘Mukto-mona’ or ‘Freemind’ that highlighted humanist and rationalist ideas and condemned religious extremism.
“They (Islamists) are behind the murder of my son,” Roy’s octogenarian father famous physicist Ajay Roy earlier said after coming out of a police station filing a murder case.
Doctors who carried out the autopsy on the body said professionals appeared to have carried out the murder as they struck three blows “very expertly and with ferocity” on Roy’s head, causing his death from profuse bleeding.
Police said they were investigating the involvement of Ansarullah Bangla Team, an Islamist extremist group based in Bangladesh, that claimed responsibility for the murder.
In an internet posting months ago, they had said: “It is not possible to kill Avijit at the moment since he lives in the US. But he will be killed when he will come to Dhaka.”
A twitter account in the name of ‘Ansar Bangla 7’ described Roy’s murder as an ‘achievement’, saying “A great success today here in #Bangladesh. Target is Down” while a series of subsequent tweets called the murder as a punishment for his “crime against Islam”.
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