Updated at 8 a.m. ET on 2016-06-12
Bangladesh police said Saturday they had arrested 3,155 people in the first two days of a week-long crackdown on crime, including a suspect in the June 5 killing of a police official's wife.
A.K.M. Shahidur Rahman, a deputy inspector general of police, told BenarNews that among those arrested are 37 suspected militants. He said the arrestees include listed criminals, wanted persons and persons with criminal records.
Similar crackdowns had previously led to the arrests of 18,000 people, according to media reports, but were not without controversy.
“In the past, the government arrested thousands of opposition leaders on the pretext of crackdowns on militants. This special drive is also aimed at suppressing the opposition,” Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, general secretary of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, told BenarNews.
Others support the effort.
“We welcome the special drive against the militants. We want protection. We also hope that the drive must not be showy,” Dr Nimchandra Bhowmik told a rally in Dhaka organized by the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Oikya Parishad, an association representing Bangladesh’s religious minorities.
Since February 2013, at least 36 people including members of religious minority groups, secular bloggers, intellectuals and others have been killed, many in machete-attacks by suspected Islamic militants, according to the Home Ministry.
Suspected killer arrested
Police on Saturday also announced the arrest of Shahzaman, 28, in the killing of Mahmuda Aktar, the wife of a top counter-terror police official. Authorities have said they suspected that Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) operatives targeted her in retaliation for anti-JMB operations led by her husband.
“We suspect he may be one three killers as he was seen in the CCTV (closed-circuit tv) footage at the time of the murder,” Debdas Bhattacharia, an additional commissioner of Chittagong Metropolitan Police, told BenarNews.
“We are not sure whether he has been a member of a militant body. He has been under questioning,” he said.
Bhattacharia also said the motorcycle used in the killing and a microbus seen following the motorcycle were confiscated.
“The driver of the microbus has been detained, but we are examining his involvement in the murder,” he said.
Prime Minister vows to catch killers
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said police will hunt down those responsible for the recent spate of killings.
“Where will they hide in Bangladesh?” she said on Saturday during a meeting of the Awami League’s Working Committee, according to Bangladesh media.
“No one will get away. Bangladesh is a small country,” Hasina said, according to bdnews24.com. “It’s not a tough task to find them. They will be brought to justice.”
Mahmuda’s killing on Sunday began a brutal week in Bangladesh as three others also lost their lives in attacks.
She was killed by three people on a motorbike as she accompanied her young son to school at around 6:45 a.m., according to Chittagong Metropolitan Police. Her killers separated the boy from his mother and then stabbed and shot her to death before speeding off on the motorcycle.
That same day, Christian shopkeeper Sunil Gomes was slashed to death in the village of Bonpara. Islamic State (IS) claimed that its fighters killed Gomes, according to the website of the SITE Intelligence Group. Bangladesh officials have claimed IS is not in the country.
On Tuesday, Islamic militants were suspected of the machete-killing Hindu priest Anando Gopal Ganguly, 69, in southwestern Bangladesh. That same day, police killed three suspected JMB members during raids in Dhaka and northwestern Rajshahi district.
Suspected Muslim radicals on Friday hacked to death Nitya Ranjan Pandey, 60, a staff member at the Sri Sri Thakur Aunukul Chandra Satsangha Ashram in Hemayetpur, Pabna. According to witnesses, Pandey was attacked by machete-wielding assailants while out for his early morning walk. SITE reported IS claimed responsibility for the attack.