Bangladesh hunts more extremists ahead of Kerry visit

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DHAKA: Bangladesh police said Monday they were hunting more extremist leaders after shooting dead the suspected mastermind of a deadly cafe attack, on the eve of US Secretary of State John Kerry s first visit.
Security forces stormed a militant hideout outside Dhaka on Monday, killing three suspected Islamists including the Bangladesh-born Canadian accused of organising last month s attack that killed 22 people, mostly foreigners.
Authorities say that after returning from Canada in 2013, Tamim Chowdhury led a faction of the banned militant group Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), blamed for a series of recent attacks on religious minorities.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the July 1 seige of the upmarket Dhaka cafe in which gunmen held hostage mainly Western diners including one American, before killing them.
But police say the home grown JMB, which has pledged allegiance to the IS group, was behind the raid. They deny the presence of international jihadist groups.
“We’re hopeful we can now capture and eliminate other extremists including Zia,” assistant inspector general of police, Mohammad Moniruzzaman, told.
Police suspect Zia, a former army major whose full name is Syed Ziaul Haque, heads another local extremist group called Ansar al Islam, blamed for the machete murders of a dozen secular writers and two gay activists.
Kerry is set to arrive in Bangladesh on Monday on his first official visit to try to deepen cooperation on counter-terrorism and other issues.
He will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and hold talks with his counterpart Mahmood Ali “on a broad range of issues including democracy, development, security and human rights”, a senior State Department official said.
Kerry will then head to India to co-chair the regular US-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bangladesh police hailed Monday s raid as a major blow to extremists in the Muslim-majority country, which has been reeling from the recent killings.