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Bangladesh Opposition Criticizes Government Effort Against Islamic Extremists


Three bombs have exploded at courthouses across Bangladesh, killing at least two people and wounding nine others. The attacks follow the arrest of the suspected leader of a militant group accused of involvement in a series of bomb attacks that rocked the country in August.

Bangladesh officials say the police arrested Mufti Abdul Hannan late Saturday at a house in the capital Dhaka. They also seized chemicals they believe were meant to manufacture bombs.

Mr. Hannan is the suspected leader of the extremist group Harkatul Jihad. He has been linked to a failed attempt to kill former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in July 2004.

Authorities also suspect Mr. Hannan was involved in the planting of more than 200 small bombs that were detonated nearly simultaneously across Bangladesh in August, killing three people and injuring scores.

Sheikh Hasina's Awami League is now the opposition. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, an Awami League spokesman, says the government could have made the arrest months ago, but it only acted because of growing pressure after the August bomb attacks.

"What is of great concern is that he openly admitted he is a supporter of the current, ruling alliance, which proves what we have been saying all along," he said. "The problem of terrorism lies within the government itself, because there is a part of the government which is actively sponsoring, protecting and nurturing these kinds of things."

Bangladesh's ruling coalition includes Jamaat-e-Islami, a party that supports a greater role for Islam in government. Its leaders deny involvement in extremism.

The government says it is interrogating Mr. Hannan, but has released no details about the questioning. Earlier this year, authorities banned two militant groups Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and Jagrata Muslim Janata, which are suspected of playing strong roles in the August attacks.

On Monday, three bombs exploded in courthouses in the cities of Chittagong, Lakshmipur and Chandpur, in another apparently coordinated attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the bombings.

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