Bangladesh police question commander of banned Islamic group

Police investigators on Thursday questioned the suspected commander and the alleged money man of a banned Islamic group blamed for a series of deadly bombings in Bangladesh. They hoped that the men, captured late Tuesday, would help authorities crack open Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, the group officials blame for blasts that have killed 22 people and wounded scores since the end of November.

"Those responsible for the bomb attacks will be put on trial. We are very serious about it," Junior Home Minister Lutfozzaman Babar told reporters Thursday. "Police are making progress in the investigation." Babar said he hoped some important information would arise from the police interrogation.

Jumatul Mujahideen Bangladesh wants to establish strict Islamic rule in the country of about 140 million people, which was set up as a secular state when it won independence in 1971 from Pakistan. Special security forces agents caught Ataur Rahman, the group's reputed military commander, in a raid late Tuesday at Tejgaon Polytechnic College in Dhaka, said Masuq Hassan Ahmed, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion, which includes police and soldiers.

Rahman, also known as Sunny, was carrying about 45,000 takas (US$690; Ђ578) in cash and eight mobile phone SIM cards, and had apparently gone to the college to meet someone, Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. Since his capture, Rahman has denied any role in the bombings, but has admitted being a member of Jumatul Mujahideen and the younger brother of the group's fugitive leader, Shaikh Abdur Rahman. Agents also nabbed Fariduzzaman Swapan, who is believed to be an accountant for Jumatul Mujahideen, in a separate raid Tuesday. Ahmed said Swapan was being investigated for suspected money laundering because he maintains several bank accounts in his name, although he denies any ties to the militants.

Neither of the men, both in their late 30s, has been charged, Ahmed said. On Wednesday, police discovered two weapons caches believed to belong to the militants, although officials would not say if the raids resulted from information provided by the suspects.

Later the same day, police arrested 14 other militant suspects in five districts for questioning about the recent bombings, said a Home Ministry official who can't be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the media, reports the AP. I.L.

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