Dhaka: An Islamist militant leader who "directly took part" in the brutal murders of a secular blogger and a publisher in Bangladesh has been arrested here, police said on Saturday as they identified an ex-army officer as the mastermind of fatal attacks on secular writers in the country.
Khairul Islam alias Fahim, a leader of intelligence wing of the outlawed Ansar al-Islam also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team, was arrested from Kamlapur Rail Station area in Dhaka last night, said Masudur Rahman, Deputy Commissioner of police's detective branch.
Khairul, 24, was believed to be involved in the murders of Jagriti Prakashani publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan and secular activist Niladri Chatterjee Niloy, besides scores of deadly attacks on secular activists and foreigners.
"Ansar al Islam or Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) has claimed responsibility of murdering most of the secular writers and bloggers... Our investigations reconfirms that ABT leader (fugitive) major Syed Ziaul Haque was behind all those attacks," a police spokesman told PTI.
Police said Khairul "directly took part" in the murders of Niloy and Dipan last year.
"This Fahim or Jishan admitted to us his direct involvement in the murders of the two and links to the killings of other bloggers as well," said Abdul Baten, Joint Commissioner of Dhaka police's detective branch.
He said Khairul had joined the group in 2013 and the next year he met Haque, a sacked army major for his involvement in a failed coup in December 2011.
Khairul had started to collect information about the duo since January 2015 and provided it to the outfit's Askari section (armed wing) to carry out the killings, he added.
Police's comments on Haque, whom they termed as "operational chief", came three months after they announced a bounty of Taka 20 lakh (USD 25.4 thousand) on his arrest.
Haque and Bangladeshi Canadian Tamim Chowdhury were identified as leaders of militant outfits, one being responsible for the July 1 terrorist attack on a Dhaka cafe.
Chowdhury, said to be a top leader of Neo-JMB known to be inclined to ISIS, was killed two months ago in a police crackdown while Haque is still on the run.
Dipan was hacked to death at his office in Dhaka's Shabagh area in broad daylight on October 31, 2015. The group had claimed responsibility for the murder.
Niloy was hacked to dead at his Dhaka residence on August 7 last year.
Bangladesh has seen a spate of gruesome attacks on secular activists, religious minorities, bloggers and foreigners, many of whom have been hacked to death with machetes.
The country has launched a massive crackdown on militants after the July 1 Dhaka terror attack in which 22 people, mostly foreigners, were killed.