Bangladesh police arrested three suspects and seized a cache of weapons, including dozens of assault rifles and two rocket launchers from a construction site of a canal, officials said Friday.
The rocket launchers, 62 assault rifles, grenades and ammunition were recovered from the project construction site in Purbachal, a town in Narayanganj district, which lies near the capital Dhaka.
Officials did not release details about those arrested or if they belonged to any militant groups.
“There is a domestic and foreign conspiracy against Bangladesh. As part of that conspiracy, a criminal gang could have brought this huge amount of weapons,” Inspector General of Police A.K.M. Shahidul Haque told reporters on Friday after visiting the spot.
“One suspect was arrested by us and he gave us information about the weapons we recovered. We are trying to figure out whether this group has more arms and ammunition,” he said. “We will also discover soon who amassed these weapons and for what purpose.”
In a similar confiscation nearly a year ago on June 18, 2016, police recovered 97 handguns and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from a canal in Uttra, in Dhaka city.
“There are similarities between weapons and ammunition recovered from the two places. They were kept hidden in the same way. It looks like both are same group’s work,” Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit chief Monirul Islam told BenarNews. “All arms look fresh and functional. I think they were placed here two or three months ago.
“These weapons do not match with the weapons we recovered from different militant hideouts. But we will investigate this matter,” he said.
Since the deadliest terrorist attack on Bangladesh soil in July 2016, at least 70 suspected militants have been killed in raids launched across the country, and bombs and other weapons have been confiscated.
A police source who requested anonymity told BenarNews officers arrested a suspect on Monday and confiscated an assault weapon. Based on information from the suspect, police arrested two more suspects who directed them to the cache.
Faruk Hossain, assistant superintendent of police in Narayanganj, told reporters officers had collected the weapons by 11 a.m. Friday after beginning the search late Thursday.
Two rifles were dug up at the site Thursday night. Starting at 7 a.m. Friday, a dive team from Fire Brigade and Civil Defense retrieved the weapons from the canal.
All told, police recovered a pair of binoculars, two rocket launchers, 62 assault weapons, 44 magazines, five handguns, 42 hand grenades, two walkie talkies, fuses and rounds of ammunition. All were wrapped with polythene.
Police have established a 12-member investigation team, which is expected to submit a report on the weapons later this month.