Bangladesh rounds up 3,000 in anti-militancy drive

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police have detained 3,000 suspected Islamist militants in just two days after a bomb attack on a lawmaker and threats against Indian interests and a top prosecutor, a security official said on Thursday.

Eight grenades, 28 firearms, dozens of ammunition and 30 motorbikes were seized in the nationwide crackdown, launched on Wednesday and the biggest since the government took power in January.

“We have detained 15 hardcore Islamists and about 3,000 suspected militants in the past two days,” a senior police officer said.

In Bangladesh, where security forces have been accused by Human Rights Watch of widespread abuses, suspects can be held for up to a month without being charged.

Police said outlawed groups Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and al Qaeda, both trying to establish Sharia-based Islamic rule, made the threats via email and postal letters.

Last week, unidentified attackers bombed the car of Fazle Noor Tapas, a member of parliament from the ruling Awami League party. Tapas escaped, but his car was damaged and 15 people were wounded.

Intelligence agencies said the outlawed Islamist groups accused of carrying out a series of deadly bombings, including one that narrowly missed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (then opposition leader) speaking at a Dhaka rally in August 2004, might launch a fresh offensive to destabilise her government.

Islamist militants exploded at least 500 small bombs in simultaneous attacks across Bangladesh in 2005, but their top six commanders were captured and hanged in early 2007.

(Reporting by Nizam Ahmed; Editing by Anis Ahmed)

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