September 10, 2015 / 3:15 PM / 3 years ago

Bangladesh arrests three more Islamists over killings of secular bloggers

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh has arrested three members of an Islamist group, including its leader, for their alleged involvement in the killings of online critics of religious militancy, a spokesman for a Bangladesh security unit said on Thursday.

Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years, while the government has cracked down on Islamist groups seeking to make the South Asian nation of 160 million people a sharia-based state.

Four bloggers have been hacked to death in the Muslim-majority nation this year.

Abul Bashar, the head of the outlawed Islamist group Ansarullah Bangla Team, and two of its members were arrested in Dhaka overnight, said Maksudul Alam, a spokesman for the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force.

“We suspect they were involved in the killings of U.S. blogger Avijit Roy and Ananta Bijoy Das,” he said.

In February, machete-wielding assailants killed Roy, 43, a U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin and a critic of religious militancy. They seriously injured his wife and fellow blogger, Rafida Bonya Ahmed.

Das, 33, was hacked to death as he headed to work at a bank in the northeastern district of Sylhet in May.

Last month, three militants, including a British citizen, were arrested for masterminding the killings of Roy and Das.

Police said at least 10 members of Ansarullah Bangla Team had been arrested since the killing of blogger Niloy Chatterjee on Aug. 7.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Larry King

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