Bangladesh has banned a radical Islamist group over a threat to the Muslim-majority country’s “security and safety”, officials said, as the government steps up a crackdown against extremists.

The South Asian nation has been ravaged by Islamist extremism since the late 1990s after jihadists who fought in the war in Afghanistan alongside the Mujahideen and Taliban returned home.

The government of prime minister Sheikh Hasina clamped down on extremist organisations following the killing of 18 foreigners at an upscale Dhaka restaurant in 2016 by a group linked to the Islamic State.

The latest group to be banned is Allahr Dal, or the Party of Allah, with police alleging it was planning attacks.

“Their activities are a threat to public security and safety,” a senior home ministry official told AFP.

Allahr Dal’s leader Matin Mehedi was arrested in 2006 after he helped Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), the nation’s biggest militant group, carry out more than 400 small blasts across the nation in 2005.

Authorities believe the group, established in 1995, is an offshoot of JMB, which was banned after the blasts.

“They want to establish Sharia law. They are engaged in anti-government activities,” the spokesman for the country’s elite Rapid Action Battalion security force, Sarwar Bin Quashem, told AFP.

“They were planning to buy arms and weapons and to carry out raids to get their leader freed from jail.”