Police in Bangladesh have arrested some 8,200 suspects in a major crackdown on militants and other suspects following a spate of killings of intellectuals and members of religious minorities.
On Monday, police spokesman Kamrul Ahsan said 3,245 people had been arrested in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of the suspects arrested since the start of the crackdown on Friday to 8,192.
Deputy inspector general AKM Shahidur Rahman said only 34 of those arrested on the third day of the campaign were militants and the others were ordinary criminal suspects.
“Most of those who have been detained have warrants of arrests against them or they are charged with narcotics, arms and other criminal offences,” he said.
Police said members of the banned group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) were among the arrestees in the latest security sweep.
A local police chief said Omar Faruq, an alleged top official of the militant group Hizb ut Tahrir, was also among those arrested.
“We seized anti-government leaflets, pistol and gunpowder from his possession,” Bashir Ahmed said.
“Faruq was previously arrested in 2012 and went out on bail. Then he started trying to re-organize the activities of the banned organization,” he said.
The Bangladeshi government blames the JMB for a spate of gruesome murders in recent months. The government rejects claims of responsibility by the Takfiri Daesh group and a branch of al-Qaeda, saying international terror groups have no presence in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has come under international pressure to end the ongoing attacks, which have killed 50 people, including members of religious minorities and liberal activists, over the past three years.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pledged that her administration will make sure that “each and every killer” is arrested.
Hasina leads a secular government in a country where about 90 percent of the population of 160 million is Muslim.
Hasina has accused the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami of spearheading the attacks to destabilize the country.
Opposition parties have accused the government of using the crackdown to suppress political dissent, claiming that many of those arrested were ordinary and innocent people.
Last Monday, Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan accused Israel of spearheading an “international conspiracy” behind the serial killings of secular intellectuals and religious minorities in the Asian country, which backs the Palestinian cause and has no diplomatic ties with the Tel Aviv regime.
He pointed to an alleged meeting between an opposition politician and an Israeli intelligence agent as evidence of the Israeli involvement in the murders.