DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh special forces raided a training camp in the southeastern Chittagong district operated by an Islamist militant network that was planning to carry out attacks in the country, senior officials said.
In their raid on the camp in Banshkhali, a remote, hilly area covered in forest, the elite Rapid Action Battalion arrested five people and found firearms, ammunition and other training material, Lieutenant Colonel Miftah Uddin said.
The operation to raid the camp was launched after police arrested 25 students on Feb. 19 at their madrasa, a school teaching Islamic theology and law, in the town of Hathazari in Chittagong, he said.
Uddin said the detained students had given information on the camp during their interrogation and that people from across Bangladesh went there to receive arms training.
Among the weapons and other items recovered were three AK 22 semi-automatic rifles, seven pistols, more than 750 rounds of ammunitions, boxing gloves and ropes.
“All arrested persons hailed from different parts of the country, were engaged there as trainers and conducted training of fire arms handling, bomb manufacturing and militants attack to selected militants,” Uddin said.
Lieutenant Colonel A K Azad, the director of RAB’s headquarters, said the militants operated a “strong network” and had a plan to attack Bangladesh, but he did not name the group.
Last month, Bangladeshi police arrested four suspected members of Islamic State in the capital, Dhaka, including a regional coordinator for the militant group who told police they had been trained in Pakistan.
“The trainers showed video films on militancy and encouraged the new militants with lectures and books,” Azad said. Young men from poor families and madrasa students had been exploited by the network, he said.
The camp was established under the veil of a cattle farm.
Reporting by Serajul Quadir in Dhaka and Nazimuddin Shyamol from Chittagong; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky