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Bangladesh Court Orders Death Sentences for Terrorist Masterminds

A Bangladesh court has sentenced to death two Islamic militant leaders for the murders of two judges last year. Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam head two terrorist organizations, which have also been blamed for a string of bombings in the country.

Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam (alias Bangla Bhai) were among seven defendants sentenced to death Monday for their part in a bomb attack that killed two judges in November.

Rahman was the leader of the terrorist group Jamaat-ul Mujahedin Bangladesh, known as JMB. Islam was the head of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh, known as the JMJB.

The judge ordered death by hanging in a crowded courtroom in the southern town of Jhalakathi, where the judges were murdered.

But that attack is just one of the many that Rahman and Islam are believed to have been involved in.

Police say their terror organizations were behind a coordinated attack last August in which hundreds of bombs were detonated nationwide. Two people were killed and analysts say the bombings were aimed at gaining publicity for the terrorist groups.

Ajay Sahni, an analyst with the Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, says the attack did prompted Bangladeshi authorities to wake up to the problem of homegrown terrorism, which they had been reluctant to tackle.

"That denial has been shattered as a result of the widespread actions that took place, those 500 odd bombings that took place on a single day - which brought home the truth that they could not in fact completely control these groupings," Sahni said, "and that they were reaching a stage where they constituted a threat to stability and security within Bangladesh itself. That realization is what has pushed these people to action."

The JMB and the JMJB want Bangladesh to become an Islamic state.

Their leaders, Rahman and Islam, were arrested in March, after eluding capture by authorities for months.

Authorities believe they carried out scores of other bomb attacks across the country, in addition to the August attack.

Sahni says authorities in Bangladesh should be praised for the arrests and convictions of Rahman and Islam and how it cripples their terrorist organizations. But he warns other militant groups are still able to use Bangladesh as a base from which to export terror.

"One, we hope that this kind of an action would also be taken against all other Islamic extremist groupings operating from Bangladesh and not only those operating within Bangladesh," he said. "But also those like the Harkut-ul Jihad Islami, operating out of Bangladesh and into neighboring areas, particularly India."

Six of the seven militants convicted Monday are in police custody. The last remains a fugitive.