06/13/2016, 09.10
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Dhaka, anti-terrorism blitz: 5320 arrests

by Sumon Corraya

The government has ordered security operations after a series of religiously motivated murders committed in recent days. Those arrested include 85 militants of illegal Islamist groups. The opposition party accuses Dhaka of exploiting the situation: "They arrested 20 of us."

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - In a nationwide anti-terrorism operation Bangladeshi police have arrested 5320 people, including some militant Islamists. The raid, conducted in recent days, is a response to the recent string of killings that bloodied the country.

In a press conference held yesterday, authorities stated that "our counterterrorism teams have arrested 85 militants," some of them members of Islamic fundamentalist groups Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Ansarullah Bangla Team, both banished from Dhaka.

The police chiefs ordered the arrests five days after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the murder of a Catholic man of 71, Sunil Gomez, slain on June 5 last in his Bonpara shop, in the diocese of Rajshahi. The same day, in Chittangong (in southeast Bangladesh), Islamic extremists shot dead Mahmuda Khanam Mitu, the wife of a well-known police superintendent involved in the fight against Islamic terrorism, killing her in front of their child. Since last year, there have been about 40 victims, including students, professors, bloggers and activists in the LGBT community, targeted for their liberal ideas.

The police operation was applauded by civil society, although with some reservations. Human rights activist, Sultan Kamal, says: "These mass arrests can also be a danger to innocent people. The police should be more cautious with detentions, but in any case I welcome this crackdown against terrorists”. Catholic Hilary Gomes believes welcomes the authorities measures, although "the police should not reveal these counter-terrorist operations, because that puts on alert militants who hide".

However, the opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), claims that the arrests are being exploited by the government to incarcerate 20 party members. Speaking to the press the leader of the movement denounced the state of fear in which local BNP activists live.

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