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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bangladesh police kill 11 militants in shootout

DHAKA, Aug 17 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi police killed 11 militants in a shootout at their hideout in the country's northern Pabna district on Thursday, police said.

The police opened fire and killed 11 members of the group as they conducted a meeting. Another 50 were detained, the official said. About 50 people, including policemen, were wounded in the gunfight.

Police and elite force rapid Action Battalion seized a dozen of guns and ammunition from the hideout at Barshal, a village some 200 km (125 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka.

"We had planned the raid on a tip off that the Marxists group will hold a meeting at this remote village," police Superintendent Mirza Abdullahil Baki told reporters at the scene.

The militants belonged to the M.L. Janajuddha group, which is active in northern Bangladesh and who say they seek to help the poor.

M.L. Janajuddha is a faction of the outlawed Purbo Bangla Communist Party, which is one of several militant groups operating in the country's northwest region, police said.

Most of its members have shunned their political agenda and have taken up arms to raid villages and police stations, police and government officials said.

Officials said they were not connected to banned Islamist groups believed to be responsible for a spate of bomb attacks last year.

On Aug. 17, 2005, Islamist militants exploded some 500 small bombs across the country almost simultaneously, killing two people and wounding many others.

No one claimed responsibility for the blasts, but copies of a leaflet found at most of the bomb sites carried a call by a banned Islamic group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, for Islamic rule in Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim democracy.

The militants continued their deadly campaign until end of the year. At least 30 people were killed and 150 wounded, including lawyers, judges, officials and police.

"I think we are much successful compared to other terror-hit countries. We have arrested and tried all top terrorists in a small span of time," State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar told reporters on Thursday.

"We have identified their (terrorists) mentors and financiers, and we will soon capture them also."

Authorities have said their followers might try to regroup and launch fresh attacks to try to destabilise the country ahead of a parliamentary election next January.

"We are not sitting idle and doing everything needed (to end the militancy)," a senior police officer said.

The militants have kept a low profile since March 2006 when their supreme commanders Shayek Abdur Rahman and Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai were captured and later sentenced to death. The sentences have not been carried out yet.

Moudud Ahmed, minister for law and parliamentary affairs, said the militants who were sentenced to death would be executed as soon as possible. "They will be hanged soon, as none has appealed against the court verdict," Moudud said.
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