Bangladeshi police forces killed nine militants believed to be planning an attack in the country’s capital, Dhaka, on Tuesday. The dodged attack was expected to be of similar nature to the massacre three weeks ago which targeted a cafe killing 22 people.
National police chief Shahidul Hoque said the men were in a building in the district of Kalyanpur, on the outskirts of Dhaka, and threw a small hand bomb when officers raided the building.
Hoque also said that it is believed that the men were members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), a group that pledges allegiance to ISIS.
“They were wearing black outfits, turbans and had backpacks … similar to the outfits the attackers in the cafe had,” Hoque told reporters at the scene after the militants were killed.
“They were plotting a major attack in the capital like that in the restaurant.”
Officers captured one militant, but another was able to escape.
“The militant who was detained claimed they were Islamic State members but we think they’re JMB,” he added.
Asaduzzaman Mia, police chief of Dhaka city, told reporters that officers had seized weapons and a large amount of explosive gel. Mia added that police were questioning the owner of the building.
“Primary evidence suggests they were well educated and from well-off families,” he said at a news conference, referring to the militants.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated that the police raid was prompted by intelligence reports.
“They were preparing to carry out a terror attack,” he said.
Bangladesh is a majority Muslim country and in the last year radical Islamist groups have attacked the country’s liberals, journalists and minorities such as Hindus, Christians, secular bloggers and academics.
Early in July, militants killed 20 hostages at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka. Five of those murdered were Bangladeshi, the others were foreigners. The five attackers were also killed.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre but the government rejected that claim, saying instead that JMB were behind the attack.
Although the government asserts that the cafe attack was carried out by domestic militants, security experts believe that the scale of the attack suggests links to a trans-national network.
Bangladeshi authorities have responded to the rise in terrorism by restricting social media. They believe that wealthy Bangladeshi youth are being radicalized by online propaganda and are responding to calls by jihadist groups to target the government and minorities.
Al-Qaeda, which competes with ISIS, has also claimed responsibility for a number of assaults in the country, including the murder of the editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine in March.