Bangladesh arrests suspected IS militant back from Syria

Dhaka (AFP) –


Bangladesh's counter-terrorism police have arrested a suspected Islamic State member who returned to the country after fighting for the militant group in Syria, police said Wednesday.

Dhaka launched a major crackdown against homegrown extremist outfits following an attack by a local outfit on a cafe in the capital in 2016 that killed 22 people, including 18 foreigners.

Police said Motaj Abdul Majid Kafiluddin Bepari, 33, joined IS in Syria after he travelled to the war-torn country from Saudi Arabia, where he was born to a Bangladeshi parent.

He returned to Bangladesh in February and made contact with a new faction of local IS-inspired Islamist extremist outfit Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a series of attacks, including the 2016 cafe attack, counter-terrorism official Wahiduzzaman Noor told AFP.

Officers arrested Bepari near a mosque in Dhaka's Uttara neighbourhood on May 5, and he has been charged under anti-terrorism laws for alleged plans to establish a caliphate in the moderate Muslim-majority country, Noor added.

"He went to Syria in 2018 and fought for the IS."

Bepari's arrest came after counter-terrorism police alerted airport authorities about the possible return of more than 50 Bangladesh-origin IS extremists after the group's defeat in Syria, deputy commissioner of Dhaka police Mohibul Islam Khan told AFP.

This is the latest in a series of IS-related security incidents in Bangladesh.

Last week, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said the British-born Shamima Begum, who married an Islamic State militant in Syria and whose parents held Bangladeshi citizenship, would "face the death penalty" for terrorism if she came to the South Asian country.

And in April, Bangladeshi security forces raided a suspected extremist hideout in Dhaka, killing at least two militants.

But on the same day, IS jihadists claimed their first attack in Bangladesh in more than two years, an attack on a group of policemen, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.