Bangladesh arrests 6 suspected Islamist militants

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Security officials in Bangladesh's capital have arrested six members of a banned militant group and accused them of planning to kill an outspoken Islamic scholar for his stand against religious extremism, a police official said Monday.

Police counter-terrorism chief Monirul Islam said the men were arrested Sunday night in a raid in Dhaka.

He said the suspects are members of Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, which has been blamed for many killings in recent years, including an attack last July on a restaurant in Dhaka's diplomatic zone in which 20 hostages were killed. Seventeen of the victims were foreigners.

Islam said the suspects had targeted a top Islamic scholar who speaks and acts against radicalism. He would not disclose the name of the reported target, but said the suspects wanted to kill him during the current fasting month of Ramadan.

Islam said the house of the targeted scholar was already under the suspects' watch and their plan was going ahead.

Later Monday, a judge in Dhaka authorized police to keep them in custody for interrogation.

Meanwhile, the anti-crime agency Rapid Action Battalion said it has arrested a garment factory owner for allegedly funding the banned militant group's purchase of weapons and explosives.

Emran Ahmed, managing director of Zemtex Linkage Industries Ltd., was arrested Saturday night at a house in Narayanganj district, just outside Dhaka, agency spokesman Mufti Mahmud Khan said. His driver was also arrested and accused of aiding his boss.

Khan said Ahmed, 37, is a member of the militant group's policy-making body and the head of its Dhaka metropolitan unit.

Bangladesh has experienced a rise in Islamic militancy in recent years, with groups targeting atheist bloggers, publishers and writers, members of minority groups and foreigners.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks, including last year's restaurant siege, but authorities have rejected the claims and held JMB responsible. The government has vowed to crush Islamic militancy and some 60 suspects have been killed in raids across the country since last July.