DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police have arrested an Islamist militant charged with the murder of a professor amid a surge in deadly attacks against liberal activists and other minorities in the South Asian nation, a senior officer said on Tuesday.
Rezaul Karim Siddiquee, 58, an English professor at Rajshahi University, was hacked to death on his way to work last month. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the killing of the professor for his “calling to atheism”.
Police however arrested a member of the banned militant group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, thought to have been lying low since six of its leaders were hanged in 2007.
The suspect was arrested on Sunday and pleaded guilty in court, Rajshahi city police chief Mohammad Shamsuddin said. A defense lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
“Four members of the local group took part in the killing mission,” Shamsuddin told a news conference, adding a search was on for three others.
The Muslim-majority nation of 160 million people has seen a series of attacks over the past year in which atheist bloggers, academics, religious minorities and foreign aid workers have been killed.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent has also claimed responsibility for some of the attacks, including the killing of two gay rights activists last month. But police say home-grown militant groups are behind the violence.
Dozens of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen members have been arrested and at least five killed in shootouts since November, as security forces step up a crackdown on militants seeking to make the moderate Muslim nation a sharia-based state.
In 2005, the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen set off nearly 500 bombs almost simultaneously on a single day, including in Dhaka. Subsequent suicide attacks on courts killed 25 people and injured hundreds.
Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie