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Bangladesh cafe attackers’ ‘spiritual leader’ arrested

Bangladesh police have arrested a ‘spiritual leader’ of a banned Islamist outfit blamed for the country’s worst terror attack at a cafe as they intensified a crackdown on militants.

Maulana Abul Kashem was arrested from a hideout in the capital last night.

Officials of the police’s elite counterterrorism and transnational crime unit said Kashem was the spiritual leader of the reconstituted Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (neo-JMB), which is believed to be inclined to the Islamic State terror group.

“He (Kashem) was a madrassa teacher in (northwestern) Joypurhat…,” Monirul Islam, the chief of the unit, said.

Islam said that the neo-JMB recruited Kashem to inspire its operatives to become extremists.

Kashem’s arrest comes after a leading neo-JMB operative was killed in police custody in northwestern Bogra while another, who supplied weapons for the July 1 cafe attack, was arrested in the capital.

Islam said their investigations found that nearly 30 militants were directly linked to the attack on the Holey Artisan restaurant in Dhaka last year, killing 22 people, including an Indian girl.

Three top leaders of the outfit were subsequently killed in gunfights with police.

Bangladesh witnessed a spate of attacks on secular activists, foreigners and religious minorities since 2013.

The country launched a massive crackdown on militants specially after the Dhaka cafe attack.

The JMB is a Bangladesh-based radical Islamist group, which also operates in the northeast of India. It was established in 1998 in Palampur Abdur Rahman. On August 17, 2005, the JMB exploded about 500 bombs at nearly 300 locations in Bangladesh within a campaign to establish Sharia law in the country. In 2005, the radical group was officially banned and six of its leaders, including Rahman, were arrested.

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