DHAKA - Bangladesh police on Sunday arrested four suspected Islamist militants, including two linked to the slaying of a Japanese man one year ago, in a raid on their hideout in an abandoned brick kiln.
The Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants threw homemade bombs, wounding three police, before they were overpowered, according to police. Guns, explosives and other weapons were found at the scene.
The arrests were made some 300 km (186 miles) north of Dhaka in Rangpur district, where Kunio Hoshi, a 65-year-old agriculturalist, was killed while working on a farming project in the impoverished, majority Muslim country.
Mizanur Rahman, a police superintendent in Rangpur, told reporters that two of the men arrested, Belal Hossain and Ershad Alam, had helped to train the militants who had killed Hoshi.
The other men who were arrested, Ashraful Islam and Al Amin, were JMB activists, he said.
In July, police lodged a charge sheet against eight JMB members, including ringleaders Saddam Hossain and Masud Rana, who were said to be involved in Hoshi’s killing.
A JMB splinter group that has aligned with the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in July on a restaurant in an upscale neighborhood of Dhaka that killed 22 people, mostly foreign nationals. Two police and five gunmen were also killed during the gun battle at the restaurant.
Rangpur district police chief Rahman said Belal Hossain, described as the recruiter and mentor of the killers of Kunio Hoshi, was detained along with three of his followers during an operation in the northern district.
“Hossain was an absconding militant and a senior member of the JMB who mentored and trained up Kunio’s killers,” Rahman said.
He was referring to the homegrown JMB, which has been banned for over a decade.
“We caught four of them near an abandoned brick kiln,” Rahman said, adding the militants injured four policemen by hurling homemade bombs.
The official said the arrest of Hossain, 45, would help in the hunt for more militants since he was “a mentor to many others.”
Hoshi, 66, was killed on Oct. 3 last year in a drive-by shooting on a dirt road outside Rangpur, where he was a long-term resident.
Although the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for his killing, police later detained eight JMB members and formally charged four of them with the murder.
Bangladesh has been reeling from a wave of attacks on foreigners, rights activists and members of religious minorities, among others.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s secular government blames local militant groups including JMB for the attacks, rejecting claims by the IS that it was behind the carnage.
Since a deadly attack in July on a Dhaka cafe in which gunmen killed 22 people — mostly foreigners — security forces have shot dead at least 40 Islamist militants.
Among those killed was a Canadian of Bangladeshi origin described by police as the mastermind of the cafe attack.