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Teachers, politicians in ‘hit-list’ – Police arrest Islamist militants after Singapore alert

DHAKA, May 3, (Agencies): Bangladesh police were Tuesday investigating a new hit-list that includes the head of a university, journalists and ruling party officials, after a series of gruesome killings. Police said they were taking seriously the threat to kill 10 people listed in a leaflet that was sent to a press club in the northwestern town of Natore on Monday by a hitherto unknown group.

Among those named was the head of Rajshahi University, where a liberal professor was hacked to death by suspected Islamists less than two weeks ago. “The leaflet bears the name of Islami Liberation Front. It said it has launched a mission to kill the 10 people,” Natore police chief Shymal Kumar Mukherjee told AFP. The Muslim-majority nation is reeling from a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants. The Islami Liberation Front said its objective was to establish an Islamic caliphate in Bangladesh by toppling what it called the “repressive” government.

Police in the city of Rajshahi said they were guarding those named and investigating the authenticity of the threat. “We’re giving special attention to these people,” deputy chief of Rajshahi police Sardar Tamizuddin Ahmed told AFP. Police said more than 1,000 students and teachers and students rallied on the Rajshahi University campus on Tuesday to protest at the murder of English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, who was a poet and leading cultural activist. Shortly after his killing, which has been claimed by the Islamic State group, two gay activists were hacked to death elsewhere.

Their killings were subsequently claimed by a Bangladeshi branch of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, when Bangladeshi blogger and social activist Ashif Entaz Rabi hosted a TV talk show about a slaying of a publisher by Islamic extremists, he faced a torrent of threatening phone calls. He says young men with earpieces started loitering outside his workplace, and a militant website urged followers to “send this Ashif to Allah.” But Bangladeshi authorities told him they couldn’t protect him, saying he’d need the kind of security usually reserved for the prime minister to keep him safe.

Instead, they told him to take care of himself, and write something good about Islam and the government. Rabi, 37, is in Washington at the invitation of a human rights group, calling attention to the dozens of writers and bloggers who fear they could be the next victim of a wave of savage attacks on liberals and religious minorities in Bangladesh.

The violence has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the traditionally moderate Muslim nation. In related news, Bangladesh police Tuesday arrested five suspected Islamist militants after being alerted to their alleged extremist activities by authorities in Singapore who had deported them. Officers from Dhaka Metropolitan Police said they arrested the five in Dhaka’s Banasree district and seized jihadist materials from the former migrant workers.

“They are Islamist militants who have been sent back from Singapore recently,” city police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP, adding that Singapore authorities had informed police about the five. The head of the force’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit, Monirul Islam, told reporters: “Singapore has accused them of inviting people to (engage in) extremism.” The arrest coincides with the Singapore government’s announcement Tuesday that it had detained eight Bangladeshi men who allegedly plotted to carry out terror attacks back home

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