Bangladesh police arrest top militant over cafe attack

Bangladesh police
The Holey Artisan Bakery has reopened in Dhaka six months after a brutal attack claimed by Islamic State killed 18 foreigners and four Bangladeshis.

Bangladesh police have arrested an Islamist militant over last year’s deadly Dhaka cafe siege, officials said Saturday (8), as authorities continue to crack down on militant outfits a year after the attack.

The counter-terrorism unit arrested Sohel Mahfuz, who allegedly supplied the weapons used in the Holey Artisan Bakery attack where armed gunmen killed at least 22 people, mostly foreigners, after taking them hostage.

“He was the supplier of the weapons in the Holey incident. We were hunting him way before the attack,” Abdul Mannan, counter-terrorism additional commissioner, said.

Acting on a tip-off, police arrested the 33 year old from the northwestern Chapainawabganj district along with three associates, Mannan said.

Mahfuz is the chief of the northern command of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a homegrown Islamist extremist outfit blamed for the attack.

He is also wanted in India for his alleged role in a 2014 blast in Burdwan, West Bengal, in which two people were killed and police recovered a huge cache of improvised explosives, the official said.

The arrest came within days of US-based monitoring group SITE publishing a statement of an Islamic State operative who warned of many more attacks in West Bengal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The Islamic State claimed the Holey Artisan Bakery attack but the government has blamed homegrown JMB.

Bangladesh has been reeling from a spate of extremist violence in recent years, with dozens of foreigners, secular writers, atheist activists and members of religious minorities killed.

Since the cafe attack, security forces have gunned down nearly 70 Islamist extremists across the country and rounded up scores more.