Bangladesh police have arrested three female members of an Islamist extremist group that is blamed for the deadly Dhaka cafe siege, the officials said on Sunday. This latest arrest comes while the authorities continue to crack down on militant outfits a year after the attack.
Late on Saturday, the police raided the militant's hideout in western Kushtia district's Bheramara town, 228km from the capital Dhaka. The three women were arrested following a failed suicide bombing after the raid.
Local police chief Nur Hossain Khandker said that one of the suspects was wearing a suicide bomb vest and tried to blow herself up as she rushed towards authorities after being asked to surrender.
"She failed and we arrested her without any harm. Later she said she couldn't find the trigger, or else, there would have been many casualties," Khandker told AFP.
Kushtia police chief Mehedi Hasan said all the women were members of Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). It is a local group that is blamed for the 2016 Holey bakery attack in Dhaka's diplomatic zone where militants killed 22 people.
According to the police, Tithi Khatun, 30, one of the women, is the wife of acting JMB chief Ayyub Bacchu who is on the run and allegedly visited the hideout frequently. "We conducted a clean sweep operation inside the den and found 10 kilos of gunpowder, two armed (suicide) vests and a loaded pistol," Khandker said.
"Two minor children were also rescued from the hideout," he added.
In recent years, Bangladesh has been reeling from a spate of extremist violence, with dozens of foreigners, secular writers, atheist activists and members of religious minorities killed.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group or Al-Qaeda has claimed the responsibilities of many of those attacks, including the cafe carnage. But, the secular government of Sheikh Hasina denies the claims, blaming home-grown militants.
However, the authorities have gunned down nearly 70 Islamist extremists across the country and arrested scores since the café attack on July 2016.