Bangladesh police arrest 5 suspected members of banned group over attack on pastor

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Police in northwestern Bangladesh said they have arrested five suspected members of a banned radical group for alleged involvement in an attempt to kill a Christian pastor.

Police chief Alamgir Kabir in Pabna district said Monday that the suspected members of Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh were arrested in raids in the capital, Dhaka, and elsewhere over past few days.

The Rev. Luke Sarker, 52, suffered minor injuries when three men attacked him with a knife at his home on Oct. 5. The men had told Sarker that they wanted to learn about Christianity.

The attempt took place days after the killings of two foreigners in the predominantly Muslim country. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks on a Japanese agricultural worker and an Italian aid worker. The claim was rejected by Bangladesh's government, which accused the opposition of trying to destabilize the country.

Earlier, police arrested a member of Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student wing of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami political party, for alleged involvement in the attack on the pastor.

Kabir said one of the five arrested people is regional chief of the banned group and another was directly involved in the murder attempt. He said they were previously part of the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami party but later became active members of the Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh group.

"We are questioning them," he said as the arrested were brought before journalists.

Bangladesh has been struggling in recent months with a rise in violence claimed by hard-line Islamic groups and has banned several that were blamed for killing four secular bloggers this year.

Authorities said they are investigating the killings of the foreigners.