South Asia

Bangladesh weapons find triggers hunt for militants

Police in Bangladesh say they have launched a massive hunt for suspected Islamist militants, after a huge arms cache was found in the capital, Dhaka.

A senior police officer told the BBC that the haul was seized from a residential building on Friday evening.

No arrests have been made so far; police suspect Islamist militants could be planning an attack in the city.

Security forces have also arrested a number of suspected militants across the country in recent weeks.

Police found 35 books on jihad, a machine gun, grenades, ammunition, 40kg (90lb) of gun-powder and a bomb-making manual.

Tip-off

"It was the first major recovery of arms and ammunition in the country in the past six months," a senior police officer, Mahabubur Rahman, told the BBC.

Another officer, Imtiaz Ahmed, said: "Our initial investigations showed that the weapons were not for the use of ordinary criminals. We suspect that it could have been for Islamist militants."

Police said the amount of explosive material recovered from the site was enough to make at least 1,000 grenades.

The raid came after a tip-off from the owner of the building who became suspicious about the activities of its four occupants. The four have not been seen so far.

Officials say they are also investigating whether extremists were planning an attack, following the recent arrest of four senior leaders of the country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

The four leaders are accused of committing genocide and mass murder during the country's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. They deny the allegations.

Bangladeshi authorities have banned a number of Islamist groups and arrested hundreds of suspected militants in recent years after a series of bombings that left dozens dead across the country in 2005.

The Islamist group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen has been blamed for the bombings.

It is one of several radical Islamist groups trying to establish Shariah law in Bangladesh.

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